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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures
Proverbs 26

 

 

Verses 1-12

Wisdom in Dealing with the Foolish: How to Deal with Fools in Establishing Righteousness in the Land - Proverbs 26:1-12 focuses upon how to deal with fools in order to establish peace and righteousness in the land. While Solomon's first collection of sayings describes the characteristics that identify a fool, his second collection explains how to respond to and discipline him. He should not be honored for his foolish acts ( Proverbs 27:1; Proverbs 27:8), he will have curses and problems in his life ( Proverbs 26:2), correction and discipline is the only way to make him act properly ( Proverbs 26:3), we are not to respond to his foolishness with the same ( Proverbs 26:4), but rather rebuke him with wisdom ( Proverbs 26:5), we are not to entrust a fool with responsibilities or hired services ( Proverbs 26:6; Proverbs 26:10), we must realize a fool cannot understand truth spoken to him in parables ( Proverbs 26:7; Proverbs 26:9), and it is a waste of time to expect a fool to correct his lifestyle, seeing there is no hope of getting him to change his ways ( Proverbs 26:11-12).

Proverbs 26:1 As snow in summer, and as rain in harvest, so honour is not seemly for a fool.

Proverbs 26:1 — "and as rain in harvest" - Illustration:

1 Samuel 12:17, "Is it not wheat harvest to day? I will call unto the LORD, and he shall send thunder and rain; that ye may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which ye have done in the sight of the LORD, in asking you a king."

Proverbs 26:1 — "so honor is not seemly for a fool" - Illustrations:

Judges 9:1-57 - Abimelech.

Esther 3:1 thru Proverbs 7:10 - Haman.

Psalm 12:8, "The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted."

Ecclesiastes 10:5-7, "There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as an error which proceedeth from the ruler: Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place. I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth."

Proverbs 26:2 As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.

Proverbs 26:2 — "as the bird by wandering" - Scripture Reference- Note:

Isaiah 16:2, "For it shall be, that, as a wandering bird cast out of the nest, so the daughters of Moab shall be at the fords of Arnon."

Proverbs 26:2 — "so the curse causeless shall not come" - Comments- Note other translations:

Brenton, "As birds and sparrows fly, so a curse shall not come upon any one without a cause."

DRC, "As a bird flying to other places, and a sparrow going here or there: so a curse uttered without cause shall come upon a man."

WEB, "Like a fluttering sparrow, Like a darting swallow, So the undeserved curse doesn"t come to rest."

Illustration- Note the story of Balaam:

Numbers 23:8, "How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the LORD hath not defied?"

Deuteronomy 23:4-5, Because they met you not with bread and with water in the way, when ye came forth out of Egypt; and because they hired against thee Balaam the son of Beor of Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse thee. Nevertheless the LORD thy God would not hearken unto Balaam; but the LORD thy God turned the curse into a blessing unto thee, because the LORD thy God loved thee."

Nehemiah 13:2, "Because they met not the children of Israel with bread and with water, but hired Balaam against them, that he should curse them: howbeit our God turned the curse into a blessing."

Proverbs 26:2Comments- In Deuteronomy 27:11-26, Moses says, "Cursed be he that…" This passage gives a long list of reason why the curse comes upon someone's life. Not a single curse comes without a cause. A curse must have a basis for coming into a person's life. If this basis exists in a person's life, it can be removed and the blessings of God will come in place of the curse.

Proverbs 26:2 tells us that everything on this earth is subject to spiritual and physical laws of God. The basic fundamental law that operates in this world is seedtime and harvest. Thus, just as a blessing has a cause, or law, in operation when it comes, so does a curse.

Proverbs 26:3 A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool"s back.

Proverbs 26:3Comments- Proverbs 26:3 tells us that the only restraints a fool submits to come from the rod of discipline inflicted by those in authority over him; for he has no self-discipline. God gave mankind the knowledge to use the whip to discipline the horse, and the bridle for the ass, and he gave man the institution of law and order and punishment to discipline those foolish enough to break the law.

Proverbs 26:4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.

Proverbs 26:4Comments- John Wesley says, "So as to imitate his folly, by passionate or reproachful speeches." 136] In other words, do not reply to a fool in the same manner that he is acting or responding to you. Rather, use God"s grace and wisdom in responding to him.

136] John Wesley, Notes on the Old Testament: Proverbs -, Malachi , in The Wesleyan Heritage Library Commentary [CD-ROM] (Rio, WI: Ages Software, Inc, 2002), comments on Proverbs 26:4.

Proverbs 26:5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.

Proverbs 26:5Word Study on "conceit" - Strong says the Hebrew word "conceit" ( עַיִן) (H 5869) means, "an eye," and figuratively, "a fountain (as the eye of the landscape)."

Scripture References- Note:

Romans 12:16, "Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits."

Proverbs 26:5Comments- John Wesley says, "So as his folly needs and requires, convincing him strongly, reproving him sharply, and exposing him to just shame." 137] In others words, reprove him in wisdom so that he sees his folly.

137] John Wesley, Notes on the Old Testament: Proverbs -, Malachi , in The Wesleyan Heritage Library Commentary [CD-ROM] (Rio, WI: Ages Software, Inc, 2002), comments on Proverbs 26:5.

Proverbs 26:5Illustrations:

1 Kings 22:24-25, "But Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah went near, and smote Micaiah on the cheek, and said, Which way went the Spirit of the LORD from me to speak unto thee? And Micaiah said, Behold, thou shalt see in that day, when thou shalt go into an inner chamber to hide thyself."

Matthew 15:1-3, "Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?"

Matthew 16:1-4, "The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed."

Titus 1:12-14, "One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth."

Proverbs 26:4-5Comments - Proverbs 26:4-5 may appear to be contradictory at first, but they do not conflict. Proverbs 26:4 tells us not to act like the fool, lest we become one. Proverbs 26:5 tells us to respond to a fool wisely, so that he can see his folly.

Proverbs 26:6 He that sendeth a message by the hand of a fool cutteth off the feet, and drinketh damage.

Proverbs 26:6Word Study on "damage" - Strong says the Hebrew word ( חָמָס) (H 2555) literally means, "violence, wrong, unjust gain."

Proverbs 26:6Comments - In underdeveloped nations today, a runner is used to do errands. Sending a letter by a runner is sometimes more reliable than by mail. A faithful runner is a great asset to an organization, but a slothful runner causes problems.

Proverbs 10:26, "As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him."

Proverbs 13:17, "A wicked messenger falleth into mischief: but a faithful ambassador is health."

Proverbs 25:13, "As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refresheth the soul of his masters."

Numbers 13:30-32, "And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it. But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel,"

Proverbs 26:6Comments- Note another translation:

Brenton, "He that sends a message by a foolish messenger procures for himself a reproach from his own ways."

Proverbs 26:7 The legs of the lame are not equal: so is a parable in the mouth of fools.

Proverbs 26:7 — "The legs of the lamb are not equal" - Word Study on "are not equal" - Gesenius says the Hebrew word "are not equal" ( דָּלַל) (H 1809) means, "to hang down, to be pendulous, to swing, to wave." Strong says it literally mean, "to slaken, to be feeble," and "figuratively, "to be oppressed." BDB says it means, "to hang, to be low, to languish."

Comments- John Wesley follows the KJV translation for ( דָּלַל), saying, "In the Hebrew, it says, ‘the legs of the lame are lifted up', in going, or in dancing, which is done with great inequality and uncomeliness. Song of Solomon - No less incident are wise and pious speeches from a foolish and ungodly man." 138]

138] John Wesley, Notes on the Old Testament: Proverbs -, Malachi , in The Wesleyan Heritage Library Commentary [CD-ROM] (Rio, WI: Ages Software, Inc, 2002), comments on Proverbs 26:7.

Proverbs 26:7 — "so is a parable in the mouth of fools" - Illustrations:

Matthew 7:4-5, "Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother"s eye."

Luke 4:23, "And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country."

Proverbs 26:7Comments- Gesenius says, "the legs hang down (as a useless weight) from the lame, and (equally useless) is a sententious saying in the mouth of fools." 139] In other words, as the legs of the lamb are useless, so is a proverb to a fool. A fool may be able to quote a proverb; but, it is as useless in his mouth as lame feet are to a crippled man. A fool cannot use a proverb no more than a lame man can use his feet to walk.

139] See Gesenius on ( דָּלַל).

In Jewish culture the children are often taught by oral tradition, so that they memorize many Old Testament passages and traditional stories. Thus, a Jewish person could quote an enormous amount of wise sayings. However, the fool could not use them.

Our legs take us on the journey of life. In like manner proverbs are designed to give man guidance along his journey by helping him make wise decisions.

Proverbs 26:7Comments- Note other translations:

ASV, "The legs of the lame hang loose: So is a parable in the mouth of fools."

BBE, "The legs of one who has no power of walking are hanging loose; so is a wise saying in the mouth of the foolish."

JPS, "The legs hang limp from the lame; so is a parable in the mouth of fools."

WEB, "The legs of the lame hang loose: So is a parable in the mouth of fools."

YLT, "Weak have been the two legs of the lame, And a parable in the mouth of fools"

Proverbs 26:8 As he that bindeth a stone in a sling, so is he that giveth honour to a fool.

Proverbs 26:8Comments - There are a number of ways to translate and interpret Proverbs 26:8.

(1) Casting Gems Onto a Stone Pile - If the Hebrew word ( מַרְגֵּמָה) (H 4773) means, "stone-heap," then some understand this as a reference to a precious stone being placed upon a stone heap. 140] Adam Clarke says this verse may be translated to read, "As a piece of precious stone in a heap of stones, so is he that giveth honour to a fool." He says this rendering would mean, "It is useless to throw a jewel among a heap of stones to increase its bulk, as to give honour to a fool," and it probably refers, as Coverdale understands it, to the custom of throwing a stone to the heap under which a criminal was buried. 141] Note two English translations that bring out this meaning:

140] Roland E. Murphy, Proverb, in Word Biblical Commentary, vol 22 (Dallas, Texas: Word, Incorporated, 2002), in Libronix Digital Library System, v 21c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp, 2000-2004), comments on Proverbs 26:8.

141] Adam Clarke, Proverbs , in Adam Clarke"s Commentary, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc, 1996), in P.C. Study Bible, v 31 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc, 1993-2000), notes on Proverbs 26:8.

Coverdale, "He ty setteth a foole in hye dignite, ty is en as yf a man dyd cast a precious stone vp ey gallous."

Darby, "As a bag of gems in a stoneheap, so is he that giveth honour to a fool."

(2) Casting a Stone on Mercury's Heap- If the Hebrew word ( מַרְגֵּמָה) (H 4773) means, "stone-heap," then some understand this as a reference the stone piles along highways that were dedicated to the deity Mercury. Thus, the Vulgate reads, "Sicut qui mittit lapidem in acervum Mercurii, ita qui tribuit insipienti honorem" (VgClem), meaning, "As he who throws a stone to Mercury"s heap, so is he who gives honour to a fool." Clarke says Mercury was a heathen god of highways. 142] John Gills says his statues were erected where two roads met.; and stones were cast in a heap by this statue as a sign of gratitude towards this deity. 143] Note a modern English translation that bring out this meaning:

142] Adam Clarke, Proverbs , in Adam Clarke"s Commentary, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc, 1996), in P.C. Study Bible, v 31 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc, 1993-2000), notes on Proverbs 26:8.

143] John Gill, Proverbs , in John Gill's Expositor, in e-Sword, v 777 [CD-ROM] (Franklin, Tennessee: e-Sword, 2000-2005), comments on Proverbs 26:8.

DRC, "As he that casteth a stone into the heap of Mercury: so is he that giveth honour to a fool."

(3) Binding a Stone in a Slingshot- The Hebrew word ( מַרְגֵּמָה) (H 4773) is normally understood to mean, "sling." 144] Thus, most modern English translations maintain the sense of a stone bound in a sling shot.

144] Roland E. Murphy, Proverb, in Word Biblical Commentary, vol 22 (Dallas, Texas: Word, Incorporated, 2002), in Libronix Digital Library System, v 21c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp, 2000-2004), comments on Proverbs 26:8.

ASV, "one that bindeth a stone in a sling, So is he that giveth honor to a fool."

Brenton, "He that binds up a stone in a sling, is like one that gives glory to a fool."

ESV, "Like one who binds the stone in the sling is one who gives honor to a fool."

NAB, "Like one who entangles the stone in the sling is he who gives honor to a fool."

NASB, "Like one who binds a stone in a sling, So is he who gives honor to a fool."

NCV, "Giving honor to a foolish person is like tying a stone in a slingshot."

NET, "Like tying a stone in a sling, so is giving honor to a fool."

NIV, "Like tying a stone in a sling is the giving of honor to a fool."

NLT, "Honoring a fool is as foolish as tying a stone to a slingshot."

Rotherham, "Like tying a stone to a sling, Song of Solomon , is he that giveth honour, to a dullard."

RSV, "Like one who binds the stone in the sling is he who gives honor to a fool."

YLT, "As one who is binding a stone in a sling, So is he who is giving honour to a fool."

John Wesley says, "Whereby he hinders his own design of throwing the stone out of it. "So" - No less absurd is he that giveth to a fool that honour which he is not capable of using aright." 145] That Isaiah , it is just as absurd to give a fool honor as it is to bind the stone in the sling.

145] John Wesley, Notes on the Old Testament: Proverbs -, Malachi , in The Wesleyan Heritage Library Commentary [CD-ROM] (Rio, WI: Ages Software, Inc, 2002), comments on Proverbs 26:8.

If a stone is bound to a slingshot so that it remains in the sling when used, it will come back and harm its user. In the same way, a person who gives honor to a fool finds harm coming back upon him as he attempts to have a relationship with the fool. In other words, a fool will ultimately harm those around him.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:6 that it is useless to cast pearls before swine, so would be a waste of money and effort to cast a precious stone on top of a heap of useless stones.

Matthew 7:6, "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you."

Proverbs 26:9 As a thorn goeth up into the hand of a drunkard, so is a parable in the mouth of fools.

Proverbs 26:9Comments- A drunkard loses his feelings for pain, and is no longer sensitive to feel those things that bring harm. So is a fool with his words and parables. He has no ability to sense the effect or meaning of his words. He does not know wisdom when he hears it, just like a drunkard does not know when he is injured."

BBE, "Like a thorn which goes up into the hand of a man overcome by drink, so is a wise saying in the mouth of a foolish man."

Note translations that show alternative meanings:

Brenton, "Thorns grow in the hand of a drunkard, and servitude in the hand of fools."

DRC, "As if a thorn should grow in the hand of a drunkard: so is a parable in the mouth of fools."

Proverbs 26:10 The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.

Proverbs 26:11 As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.

Proverbs 26:11Comments- Proverbs 26:11 is quoted in 2 Peter 2:22. Its redemptive message reflects the fact that some who accept Christ Jesus as their Saviour will be led astray by false teachings, lured by the lust of the flesh, returning to their old sinful habits. Peter tells us that their latter end will be worse than their beginning depravity.

2 Peter 2:22, "But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire."

Proverbs 26:12 Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.


Verses 1-28

Proverbs 22:26-27 — Third Saying (Tetrastitch) - Proverbs 22:26 forms a single proverbial thought using four lines. This is called a tetrastitch.

Proverbs 22:26 Be not thou one of them that strike hands, or of them that are sureties for debts.

Proverbs 22:27 If thou hast nothing to pay, why should he take away thy bed from under thee?

Proverbs 22:28 — Fourth Saying (Distitch) - Comments- Proverbs 22:28 forms a single proverbial thought using two lines, which is called a distitch.

Proverbs 22:28 Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.

Proverbs 22:28Comments- The Mosaic Law made provisions for preserving the ancient boundary marks set by the founding fathers of the nation of Israel ( Deuteronomy 19:14; Deuteronomy 27:17). These boundary marks were originally set during the time of Joshua during the allotment of the land to the twelve tribes of Israel immediately after the conquest of the Promised Land ( Joshua 13:1 to Joshua 21:45). During the course of the nation's history, land was lost because of poverty, or the need to sell one's land; it was lost by marauding groups from neighbouring countries; it was taken by corruption ( Job 24:2). For example, King Ahab killed Naboth and took possession of his land ( 1 Kings 21:1-16). Today in many countries, the office of land registry is corrupted, so that government officials change land titles through bribes, or land owners simply encroach out of their boundaries and steal portions of neighbouring land.

Deuteronomy 19:14, "Thou shalt not remove thy neighbour"s landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance, which thou shalt inherit in the land that the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it."

Deuteronomy 27:17, "Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour"s landmark. And all the people shall say, Amen."

Job 24:2, "Some remove the landmarks; they violently take away flocks, and feed thereof."

Scripture Reference- Note a similar proverb:

Proverbs 23:10, "Remove not the old landmark; and enter not into the fields of the fatherless:"


Verses 13-16

Wisdom in Dealing with the Sluggard - Proverbs 26:13-16 teaches us about the sluggard.

Proverbs 26:13 The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets.

Proverbs 26:14 As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed.

Proverbs 26:15 The slothful hideth his hand in his bosom; it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth.

Proverbs 26:16 The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.

Proverbs 26:16Comments- You cannot reason with a slothful person, because he is wise in his own eyes. The number seven used in Proverbs 26:16 implies divine wisdom.


Verses 17-28

Wisdom in Dealing with the Liar - Proverbs 26:17-28 teaches us how to deal with busy-bodies and gossips in our relationships with others.

Proverbs 26:17 He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.

Proverbs 26:17Word Study on "strife" - Gesenius says the Hebrew word "strife" ( רִיב) (H 7379) means, "to contend, to strive," and "to contend forenically, to plead a cause." Strong says it means, "a contest," and comes from the primitive root verb ( רִיב) (H 7378), which means, "to toss, grapple, wrangle, i.e, to hold a controversy."

Proverbs 26:19 So is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport?

Proverbs 26:20 Where no wood Isaiah , there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.

Proverbs 26:21 As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.

Proverbs 26:20-21Scripture References- Note a similar verse:

James 3:5-6, "Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell."

Proverbs 26:27 Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him.

Proverbs 26:27Comments- Digging a pit means devising ways that make the righteous go astray. Note a similar verse that gives insight into the meaning of Proverbs 26:27 :

Proverbs 28:10, "Whoso causeth the righteous to go astray in an evil way, he shall fall himself into his own pit: but the upright shall have good things in possession."

Proverbs 26:28 A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
No distribution beyond personal use without permission.

Bibliography Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Proverbs 26:4". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ghe/proverbs-26.html. 2013.

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