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1. As snow in summer… as rain… harvest Both of which are, in Palestine, rare at the seasons named, and their occurrence then deemed calamitous, as being damaging to the crops. So is it, too, in some parts of California, which has a similar climate.
So honour (preferment) is not seemly for a fool Does not sit well on him, or fit him; a figure supposed to be taken from a misfitting or unbecoming garment. The ideas of grossness, stupidity, and wickedness are embraced in the Hebrew כסיל , ( kesil,) which we render fool. See on Proverbs 1:22. Compare 1 Samuel 12:17.
2. As the bird Here meaning any small bird of passage which frequently removes from place to place.
By wandering Literally, removing.
Swallow Generally so construed, though sometimes rendered dove or wild pigeon.
So the curse Affliction of any character.
Causeless shall not come Not without design, so far as it is of God’s appointment. We take the import of the proverb to be, that as the wanderings of the “bird” or the flying of “the swallow” in their removals from place to place have an object namely, the supplying of their bodily needs and so far are an instinct from God, so afflictions shall be designed for the benefit of those who are exercised thereby. “As even birds of the air obey a law of their nature in their seemingly irregular wanderings, so the evils that befall men are not fortuitous, but presuppose a reason and a cause.”
3. Whip… bridle… rod “According to our English notions, we should rather say a bridle for the horse and a whip for the ass. But from numerous passages in the Old Testament it appears that asses were the beasts on which the people, and even the great men, usually rode. Their asses, therefore, being active and well broken, needed but a bridle to guide them, whereas their horses, being, probably, badly broken and easily frightened, would be less manageable, and frequently require the correction of the whip.” The Seventy, perhaps led by the same train of thought as the above, have translated מתג , ( metheg,) bridle, by κεντρον , a goad. There is, however, no example of such use of metheg. Instead of “for the back of a fool,” they also read, “for a simple nation.” Comp. Proverbs 10:13; Proverbs 19:29; Psalms 32:9.
4, 5. Answer not a fool… answer a fool The point in these two proverbs, which are the complement of each other, is found in the play upon a single letter, the כ , ( kaph,) used as a sign of comparison or similarity in Hebrew, and which we render according to. In Proverbs 26:4, “according to” means, in the manner of his folly, with folly like his, whether it be silliness, scurrility, or wickedness. In Proverbs 26:5, “according to” means, as he deserves, or as is fitting, so as to expose his folly and rebuke him. “The Pythagoreans had maxims like in form, in which a truth was expressed in precepts seemingly contradictory, as, ‘ walk,’ and ‘ walk not,’ in the broad road.” Speaker’s Commentary.
6. Cutteth off the feet That is, of himself, as explained by the following clause.
Drinketh damage A man that employs a fool in his business cripples himself. Comp. Proverbs 10:26; Proverbs 25:13.
7. Legs… not equal The root of דליו , ( dalyu,) translated not equal, is uncertain. Hence we have the following: 1. As the legs of the lame are weak, so a proverb, etc. 2. Take away the legs of a lame man, and so take away a proverb, etc. 3. The legs hang down from the lame, etc. 4. The legs drag after the lame, etc. Each of these is favoured by different authorities. Forms from the supposed root are sometimes rendered in our Version in the sense of exalted, lifted up, etc. (See margin; also Psalms 30:1.) Hence Patrick says: “As the word dalyu signifies something of elevation or lifting up, I have explained it of dancing,” which explanation, as it is curious, we give: “A wise saying as ill becomes a fool as dancing doth a cripple; for as his lameness never so much appears as when he would seem nimble, the other’s folly is never so ridiculous as when he would seem wise.” A good sense, whether it is that of the proverb or not.
Parable משׁל , ( mashal,) the same word is rendered proverb in this book. See on Proverbs 1:1.
8. As he that bindeth a stone The margin reads: “As he that putteth a precious stone into a heap of stones.” The reading of the text is supported by the Septuagint and Syriac, and is preferred by some very reputable modern critics. The moral is the same in both forms, namely: the folly or uselessness of giving honour preferment, responsibility to a fool that is, an incapable and wicked man. These are some of the translations of the first clause: “As a bag of gems in a heap of stones” a proverbial expression like that in Matthew 7:6, casting pearls before swine. So Gesenius: “As a grain of precious stone in a heap of stones, so is he,” etc.
The precious stone in one case, and the honour in the other, is thrown away and lost. The Douay, following the Vulgate, reads: “As he that casteth a stone into a heap of mercury, so is he that giveth honour to a fool.” Did the translator take margemah for Mercury, the heathen god of the highways? But Schultens takes מרגמה , ( margemah,) which occurs only here, and is rendered sling in the Authorized Version, to denote a heap of stones cast over a person stoned to death. This explanation would make the proverb more poignant. “The honour given to a fool is compared to a stone flung at a heap already thrown at a criminal stoned to death. It but adds to his shame. As the confining a precious stone in the sepulchral heap of an executed malefactor, where it must be disgraced, if not lost, so is he that giveth honour to a fool.” Zockler, Conant, and Miller prefer the old rendering, “a stone in a sling.” The Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic support our Authorized Version. Miller maintains that the binding the stone in the sling means simply putting it there to be thrown, and, hence, to damage those it reaches.
9. As a thorn goeth up (or is taken up) into the hand of a drunkard One drunk.
So is a parable (or proverb) in the mouth of fools They will hurt themselves or others with it. A sarcasm.
10. The great God, etc. Here again we have a verse of much difficulty, by reason of the uncertainty of the true import of several words. The word GOD is not in the original. רב , ( rabh,) great, among its many meanings has such as these: mighty, the Mighty, agreat one, chief leader, master, doctor, teacher, etc. The word מחולל , ( mehholel,) formed, is equally, or more, latitudinarian in sense. There is seemingly nothing in the construction to aid in reaching the true meaning, and the Versions yield little help. The Septuagint and Vulgate “are hopelessly unintelligible.” The simplest and best rendering, perhaps, is that found in the Speaker’s Commentary: “As the archer that woundeth every one, so is he who hireth the fool, and he who hireth every passer by.” Or thus: “A master-workman endangers everything when he employs a fool or employs vagrants.” With this, substantially, agrees Lange. The note of the Speaker’s Commentary is good: “Acting at random, intrusting matters of grave moment to men of bad repute, or to any chance comer, is as likely to do mischief as one who shoots arrows at every one.” Conant translates: “A master-workman forms all things, but he that hires a fool is as he that hires passers by.”
11. As a dog returneth Compare 2 Peter 2:22.
Returneth to his folly Repeats it, or turns back unto it. Compare Matthew 12:45; John 5:14; Hebrews 6:4-8.
12. Wise… conceit Many hard things have been said of “the fool” in this book. One might think his case the most hopeless in the world; but the “man wise in his own conceit” the self-conceited coxcomb is more hopeless than a natural fool. Compare Proverbs 29:20.
13. Lion in the way Compare Proverbs 22:13, where we have the same proverb almost verbatim.
14. As the door turneth “Doors anciently turned on vertical pivots. As the door moves on its hinges, but not from them, so the sluggard moves on, but not from, his bed.” Muenscher. Conant gives it very neatly: “The door turns on its hinges, and the sluggard on his couch.” So also Zockler. Compare Proverbs 6:10; Proverbs 24:33.
15. Hideth See Proverbs 19:24. In his bosom Rather, in the dish.
It grieveth him It is wearisome to him. A sarcasm. “Too lazy to eat!”
16. Seven Many. This has nothing to do with “seven” as a sacred or perfect number. It is a definite number given for an indefinite. Compare Proverbs 5:25; also Proverbs 6:31; Proverbs 24:6.
Render a reason Can answer discreetly, give a right judgment.
17. Taketh a dog by the ears Septuagint: “By the tail.” This is a striking metaphor, representing a difficulty which we cannot get out of without danger and injury. A very forcible caution against unnecessarily intermeddling with other people’s contentions, especially with family quarrels. The Oriental dogs, the most of which have no masters, but run at large, are irritable and fierce. Instead of meddleth with Zockler renders, “Is excited by strife that is not his own.” Conant: “Gets angry.” Stuart: “Rushes into.” Compare Proverbs 20:3, and note there.
18, 19. As a mad man According to some, one who feigns himself mad. The form of the word suggests this, but it is hardly sustained by the use. “Like a silly jester.” Stuart and Bertheau. Death is used tropically for a deadly weapon. The Geneva Bible translates Proverbs 26:18: “As he that feigneth himself mad casteth fyre brandes, arrowes, and mortal things.”
Deceiveth Better, throweth down. “Deceiveth” is a secondary meaning.
The primary “that throws his neighbour down and says, ‘It was only a joke’” is better here. Compare Proverbs 25:18. The throwing down, however, is metaphorical, and implies injury cheating him.
20. No wood is No more wood, that is, when wood fails.
Talebearer A tattler, whisperer, or garrulous person.
21. As coals Charcoal. The sentiment in these two verses is similar, but not identical, that is represented in two different ways.
A contentious man One who is fault-finding, irritating, and consequently vexatious.
Strife ceaseth Goes out; it is kindled, fanned up, and kept burning by a man of contention one fond of strife. Compare Proverbs 15:18; Proverbs 16:28; Proverbs 21:9; Proverbs 22:10; Proverbs 27:15.
22. Words of a talebearer See Proverbs 18:8.
As wounds Rather, as dainty morsels: hence, he is fond of repeating them.
23. Burning lips Fiery professions of friendship, (Zockler,) and, especially lustful kisses. Matthew 26:48.
Potsherd A piece of broken crockery; perhaps put poetically for an earthen vessel.
Silver dross An earthen vessel plated with silver, appearing more valuable than it really is. The proverb teaches the worthlessness of merely pretended friendship.
24. He that… dissembleth This seems to be the counterpart of the preceding, and is rendered: “By his lips shall the hater be known, that he putteth deceit within him;” that is, that he cherishes it. Gesenius. The hater, however smooth spoken, can hardly so dissemble as to escape detection. Most interpreters, however, follow the Authorized Version.
25. When he speaketh fair Literally, When he makes his voice gracious speaks in kind, winning tones believe him not; do not be deceived by the fair speech of a known enemy.
26. Whose hatred Or, his hatred. Stuart translates: “Hatred concealeth deceit.” Conant: “Covers itself with deceit.”
Wickedness… showed Disclosed, discovered.
Before the whole congregation Like murder, it “will out.” The “congregation” may mean the court or judicial assembly. It is supposed to refer back to “he that hateth,” Proverbs 26:24.
27. Diggeth a pit That is, with evil intent.
Shall fall therein There are many facts illustrative of this proverb. Wicked men often involve themselves in the mischief they intend for others. Witness Haman, in the Book of Esther. Compare Ecclesiastes 10:8; Matthew 7:2; Psalms 9:15; Psalms 37:8.
28. A lying tongue… and a flattering mouth These terms, according to Hebrew usage, stand for persons with these qualities. The rendering of the first clause is not entirely satisfactory. We prefer, as more coherent with the latter member, to follow Bate: “The lying tongue shall hate (repent) its bruisings, (calumnies;) for the flattering mouth shall work its own destruction.” The proverb may be regarded as complementary to the preceding one, and as a suitable finale to the whole subject of lying, flattery, and deception presented in Proverbs 26:23-28. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that the larger number of critics substantially accord with our Authorized Version, and take the first clause as corresponding with the saying of Tacitus: “It is natural to man to hate one whom he has injured.”
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 26". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13