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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Proverbs 14

 

 

Verse 1

Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.

Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands - literally, 'wise women (each one) buildeth,' etc. Or else, 'the wisdom of women ... the folly,' etc. "Buildeth" - i:e., adorns, establishes, and makes happy her household (Ruth 4:1, "Rachel and Leah did build the house of Israel"). Such a one is taught experimentally by the Word of God how to bear herself toward her husband, her children, and her servants. Hereby, and by the noble offspring which God gives her, according to His promise, she "buildeth her house." The foolish woman, by her negligence, bad administration, self-indulgence, and provocation of God's displeasure, "plucketh down" her house.


Verse 2

He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the LORD: but he that is perverse in his ways despiseth him.

He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the Lord: but he that is perverse in his ways despiseth him.

Uprightness and piety are inseparable, as are also frowardness and godlessness. Each man's religion is to be estimated by its fruits in his life. He "despiseth" God who despiseth His Word: such a one shall be despised by God (1 Samuel 2:30; 2 Samuel 12:9-10; Malachi 1:6-7; Numbers 15:30-31).


Verse 3

In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride: but the lips of the wise shall preserve them.

In the mouth of the foolish (is) a rod of pride: but the lips of the wise shall preserve them - (cf. Psalms 36:11, "The foot of pride.") The fool's "rod of pride" is his tongue, wherewith he assails and strikes others. But it recoils on himself. The instrument of punishment is called a "rod," not a sword; to imply the contumely with which the proud shall be visited. The plural, "lips," in the Hebrew is joined with the verb singular. The lips-i.e, each one of the lips-of the wise preserveth them severally.


Verse 4

Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.

Where no oxen are, the crib is clean - i:e, Where there is no tillage of the ground (which in the East is effected by oxen), there is no food. Where there is no toil there can be no food wherewith to supply the labourer. There must be the labour of the oxen, if their crib is to be full of food.

But much increase is by the strength of the ox. As no produce is to be expected if the land be untilled, so where the strength of the ox, is put into requisition, there is "much increase."


Verse 5

A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies.

A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies. He who is accustomed to tell the truth in private, you may depend upon it, will tell the truth as a public witness. "Utter lies" - lit, 'will breathe out lies again and again studiously' (Mariana, T. Cartwight) (Proverbs 6:19).


Verse 6

A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not: but knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth.

A scorner seeketh wisdom, and (findeth it) not: but knowledge (is) easy (Hebrew, an easy thing) unto him that understandeth. The scorner findeth it not, because he does not seek it diligently and seriously, and with a desire for piety, but as profane Esau sought the blessing: nor does he seek it with the end in view that he may obey the will of God (for if he did so, God would teach him, John 7:17), but in order to get the sanction of God for gratifying his own desires (Jeremiah 42:1-20; Ezekiel 20:1-4), and to amuse his mind with the eloquence of God's ministers (Ezekiel 33:31-32). Nor does he seek in the right time, or the day of grace, but only when dangers are impending. He scorned the wisdom of the godly when he might have had it; therefore, now that he wants it, he shall not find it. Moreover, he does not seek it by the right means, but with self-confidence and pride. Heavenly knowledge is easily found by him who seeks it with his whole heart: it voluntarily presents itself to "him that understandeth" (Daniel 12:10).


Verse 7

Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge.

Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not (in him) the lips of knowledge. So Michaelis. Maurer, after L. DeDieu, translates, 'Go so as to stand opposite a foolish man, and you will not perceive (discover) in him the lips of knowledge' - i:e., any knowledge proceeding from his lips. But the Hebrew particle, min (Hebrew #4480), "from," implies removal to a distance [ mineged (Hebrew #5048)] (Genesis 21:16; Psalms 31:22). Though the other sense is possible [ex enantias, ex adverso], (Numbers 2:2 margin) Avoid intimacy with the ungodly fool, lest thou become polluted thereby; also lest the weak be unsettled by thy example, and lest the wicked take occasion thence of slumbering in, their sins; and lastly, lest time be lost by it. 'The indication of piety and of impiety is most readily and surely sought from the use made of the tongue' (Matthew 12:37). The proverb says, 'Speak, that I may see what you are' (T. Cartwright)).


Verse 8

The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: but the folly of fools is deceit.

The wisdom of the prudent (is) to understand his way - what he ought to do and how to behave: to do nothing rashly, but with return judgment; to understand what is incumbent on him by his calling (1 Corinthians 7:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:11); not to be wise in other people's business and duties and yet a feel in one's own: to begin with one's self, what sins most beset one, what are our dangers, and how to meet them.

But the folly of fools (is) deceit. Their folly is their cunningly devised deceits which they pride themselves on as But the folly of fools (is) deceit. Their folly is their cunningly devised deceits which they pride themselves on as master-strokes of wisdom. The wise man seeks by honest means-namely, by the conscientious ordering of his life; the fool seeks by deceit. The feel's deceit is practiced to gain riches and power: this "deceit" is opposed to "understanding" for while deceiving others, he does not understand that all the while be is deceiving himself.


Verse 9

Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favour.

Fools make a mock at sin - (Proverbs 10:23; Proverbs 2:14; Isaiah 3:9.) The Hebrew my be also translated, 'sin (i:e., when it brings its punishment) makes a mock at fools,' even as they mock at sin.

But among the righteous there is favour - the favour of God and of all good men, inasmuch as they do not, mock at sin, but speak what is conformable to the will of God. To complete the antithesis, the sense must be supplied, fools make a mock at sin (and so incur the wrath of God); but (the righteous regard sin as a serious offence, and one to he shunned; and therefore) among the righteous there is the favour of God.


Verse 10

The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy.

The heart knoweth his own bitterness (Hebrew, the bitterness of his soul); and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy - (cf. Proverbs 14:13) None can enter so fully into our bitterness or our joy as ourselves (1 Corinthians 2:11). Eli could not enter into the "bitterness of soul" of Hannah (1 Samuel 1:10; 1 Samuel 1:13; 1 Samuel 1:16): nor Gehazi into that of the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:27). Michal, though the wife of David's bosom was "a stranger" to his "joy" when "he danced before the Lord with all his might," at the bringing up of the ark to Zion (cf. 1 Samuel 18:13; 1 Samuel 18:20, with 2 Samuel 6:12-16). This proverb teaches the individuality of each soul in its innermost being, so that none except He who searcheth the hearts can with thorough sympathy enter into our joys and our sorrows.


Verse 11

The house of the wicked shall be overthrown: but the tabernacle of the upright shall flourish.

The house of the wicked shall be overthrown: but the tabernacle of the upright shall flourish. The abode of the wicked, though a "house," and though large, apparently flourishing, and in their own opinion destined to "continue forever" (Psalms 49:11), "shall be overthrown:" whereas "the tabernacle of the upright," though apparently small, weak, and humble, "shall flourish." Let us not be misled or perplexed by the external prosperity of the godless, (Psalms 37:1-40.)


Verse 12

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof (are) the ways of death. Good intentions are not a justification for wrongdoing (2 Samuel 6:6). We must search our ways of life, our opinions, and practices, by the test of the Word of God. Judges 17:6, etc., gives an awful illustration of the end of "every man doing that which is right in his own eyes." Compare the prohibition of this, Deuteronomy 12:8.


Verse 13

Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.

Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful - (cf. Proverbs 14:10.) The Hebrew for "is sorrowful" [ yik


Verse 14

The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.

The backslider in heart (Psalms 44:18) shall be filled with his own ways - (note Proverbs 1:31.) Not one who turns aside from the right path of doctrine and practice through thoughtlessness, and, as it were, only with the feet, like one for the time intoxicated, but one who knowingly and willfully 'backslides in heart' - i:e., with the understanding and will-such a one shall get his fill of his own ways, until he shall nauseate and feel them his most terrible curse (cf. Numbers 11:19-20).

And a good man (shall be satisfied) from himself - `from that which is in himself.' His happiness is self-contained. Having God within, he is satisfied already, independently of other and external sources of happiness; and hereafter he shall be fully 'satisfied when he shall awake with his Lord's likeness' (Psalms 17:15), The ways of the godly man and his own regenerate heart shall become the source of his happiness, as the ways and the heart of the backslider shall be his misery.


Verse 15

The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.

The simple believeth every word - whether, true or false, useful or injurious. "Charity," indeed, "believeth all things" (1 Corinthians 13:7); but not things that are palpably untrue. It is the truth which it readily believes. It believes all that it can with a good conscience believe to the credit of another, but not anything more. Epicharmus says, 'The sinews and limbs of faith are not rashly to believe' (Acts 17:11).

But the prudent (man) looketh well to his going - whether it tends to grace and salvation, or to sin and perdition: he 'believeth not every word,' as, for instance, the flattering words of seducers, who commend to him false doctrine or licentious practice (cf: Ephesians 5:15).


Verse 16

A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident.

A wise (man) feareth, and departeth from evil - "feareth," lest he may offend God, and, through distrust of himself, keeps at the greatest distance from the contagion of sin.

But the fool rageth - against God, and against those who fear God and would recall him from sin. He is impatient at being checked in his course (so the Hebrew means in Deuteronomy 3:26; Psalms 78:21; cf. Proverbs 22:3). Gejer, translated [as the Hithpael of `aabar (Hebrew #5674), to transgress], 'The fool makes himself to transgress;' 'sins of his own accord and with premeditation.' But the English version is the ordinary sense.

And is confident - in contrast to the wise man's 'fear' of sin and distrust of himself.


Verse 17

He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated.

(He that is) soon angry (Hebrew, curt, or short in his nostrils; he who lets but a short interval elapse between his taking offence and giving vent to it-the nostrils breathing out indignation) dealeth foolishly (Ecclesiastes 7:9; cf. below, Proverbs 14:29); and a man of wicked devices is hated.} A man who, when offended, represses the indications of his anger, all the while meditating revenge, and waiting for the opportunity when he can wreak it. As "he that is soon angry dealeth foolishly" as, regards himself, so he that 'wickedly devises' revenge, while deferring the expression of his anger, bringeth on him the 'hatred' of others. Thus there is danger on both sides, in hastiness, and in deferring anger through malice. The latter is the worst offence.


Verse 18

The simple inherit folly: but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.

The simple inherit folly. "Inherit," from the contrast to 'crown themselves with,' must mean, 'The simple pertinaciously hold, as their special inheritance, folly' - i:e., their foolish opinions and bad practices.

But the prudent are crowned (or crown themselves) with knowledge - `as their ornament now and their inheritance' hereafter, with all its blessed consequences. Even as the simple encircle themselves with folly as their 'crown' of disgrace now, and their fatal 'inheritance' hereafter.


Verse 19

The evil bow before the good; and the wicked at the gates of the righteous.

The evil bow before the good; and the wicked at the gates of the righteous. The evil shall be brought so low that they shall bow before the good to ask their help, Joseph's wicked brethren were brought to "bow themselves to him to the earth" (Genesis 43:26; Genesis 50:18; cf. Esther 3:2; Esther 6:11; Revelation 3:9). Clients wait 'at the gates' of those more powerful, to sue their aid when they are going out, as beggars are not admitted within (Esther 4:2). The evil shall implore the intercession and help of the godly in vain (Luke 16:24).


Verse 20

The poor is hated even of his own neighbour: but the rich hath many friends.

The poor is hated even of his own neighbour. How inhuman to be the less charitable, just in proportion as the poor, whom God hath afflicted, need our charity!

But the rich hath many friends - literally, 'But those who love the rich are many.' It is not the man, but his riches that they love.


Verse 21

He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.

He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth - grievously. Whatever his neighbour may be, sick, ignoble, ignorant, he must not be despised; nay, 'mercy' is to be shown to him.

But he that hath mercy on the poor, happy (is) he. The poor are a prey to injury, because they dare not resist. "Mercy" is the opposite of 'despising' the afflicted poor.


Verse 22

Do they not err that devise evil? but mercy and truth shall be to them that devise good.

Do they not err that devise evil? but mercy and truth (shall be) to them that devise good. Those who employ the same energy in good as the bad, exercise in evil shall have, as their reward, 'mercy and truth' - i:e., the faithful fulfillment of God's promises of salvation, just as the devisers of evil, on the contrary, shall be given up to 'error' and its penalty-perdition.


Verse 23

In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury.

In all labour (Hebrew, painful labour) there is profit: but the talk of the lips (tendeth) only to penury. In all honest labour there is profit, soon or late; but no profit, nay, rather 'penury,' results from empty talk. Loud talkers are lazy workers.


Verse 24

The crown of the wise is their riches: but the foolishness of fools is folly.

The crown of the wise (is) their riches; (but) the foolishness of fools (is) folly. Not riches, but "wisdom, gives a crown of glory" (Proverbs 4:9). "The prudent are crowned with knowledge," not with riches (Proverbs 14:18). Therefore the sense is, Wisdom (the opposite of 'folly'), being "the crown of the wise," constitutes their true 'riches,' and results in the heavenly riches; "but the foolishness of fools" is not "riches" to them, as 'the wise man's crown' of wisdom is to him, but is and continues "folly" - i:e., emptiness-neither an ornamental 'crown' nor enriching wisdom.


Verse 25

A true witness delivereth souls: but a deceitful witness speaketh lies.

A true witness delivereth souls - `delivers' innocent souls that are calumniated and accused before judges.

But a deceitful (witness) speaketh (Hebrew, breathes forth) lies - so as to destroy innocent "souls."


Verse 26

In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.

In the fear of the Lord (is) strong confidence; and his children shall have a place of refuge. "His" - i:e., the Lord's children (Psalms 73:15).


Verse 27

The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.

The fear of the Lord (is) a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death. "The law of the wise" is "the fear of the Lord;" for of both the same things are predicted (Proverbs 13:14).


Verse 28

In the multitude of people is the king's honour: but in the want of people is the destruction of the prince.

In the multitude of people (is) the king's honour: but in the want of people (is) the destruction, of the prince - (2 Samuel 24:14-17.) "The king" who would have a 'numerous' and contented "people" as his "honour," must govern with equity and clemency, not with tyranny and cruelty. He must also fear the Lord, lest he bring down God's judgments on himself and his people.

`Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, Where wealth accumulated and men decay.'


Verse 29

He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.

(He that is) slow to wrath (is) of great understanding: but (he that is) hasty of spirit exalteth folly - (Proverbs 14:17 :) "Exalteth folly," like one's banner lifted up so as to be seen by all; and so is of small understanding. The raising of the voice aloud accompanies this raising up of folly. "He that is slow to wrath" depresseth folly; and so "is of great understanding."


Verse 30

A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.

A sound heart (is) the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones. A heart free from "envy," anger and every faulty affection toward one's neighbour, relieves the body of a great source of very many diseases; for it produces joy and peace, flowing from a good conscience, and is attended with the blessing of God. [Thus, marpee' (Hebrew #4832) is taken from rapa' (Hebrew #7495), to make sound]. An active sense is also included in a 'sound mind,' both sound itself and bringing soundness to others; which sense is implied also in the Hebrew for "flesh" being plural-`is life to the bodies of others.' Gejer, Maurer, etc., take it, 'a sedate' or 'tranquil heart' [from raapaah (Hebrew #7503), to remit or abate] - one free from all immoderate anger, hatred, and envy. So the Hebrew is taken (Ecclesiastes 10:4). In either ease, "a sound," or else a 'tranquil heart' stands opposed to "envy;" and "the life of the flesh" to "the rottenness of the bones" - namely, that which eats away all its marrow (Proverbs 12:4; Proverbs 17:22).


Verse 31

He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.

He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker - who hath made the poor as well as the rich (1 Samuel 2:7; Proverbs 22:2, below; Exodus 4:11). The oppressor of the poor, whether by word or deed, persuades himself that God either will not, or cannot, vindicate the poor.

But he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor - i:e., he honoureth his Maker whosoever hath mercy on the poor. It is not enough merely not to oppress, we must also show positive mercy, whereby we honour the Lord, who hath commanded the poor be relieved.


Verse 32

The wicked is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death.

The wicked is driven away in his wickedness - `in his evil' - i:e., when the penalty of his evil overtakes him; as the expression, "in his death," in the parallel opposite clause requires. "Driven away" as the chaff, having nothing substantial in him (Psalms 1:4).

But the righteous hath hope in his death - sure hope of eternal life (Job 19:26; Psalms 23:4; Psalms 37:37; Titus 1:2). Also, when death-like distresses come upon him.


Verse 33

Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding: but that which is in the midst of fools is made known. Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding - not merely superficially in the lips, as in the case of those making a display, but in the inmost recesses of "the heart." "Resteth" implies the tranquil and modest spirit of the wise, and the permanence of their keeping of wisdom; and especially that it is the fruit of the Spirit from above descending and abiding on them (Numbers 11:25-26; Isaiah 11:2; 2 Kings 2:15. Contrast Ecclesiastes 7:9). The wise does not draw forth his wisdom from its resting-place within his heart at random, but in proper place and time, as the occasion may require.

But (that which is) in the midst (in the inmost part) of fools is made known - namely, their folly to be supplied from the contrary to "wisdom" in the parallel clause, 'Exhibits itself to be known.' Fools cannot long disguise their folly; it is sure to betray itself in unseasonable speaking at random, without choice or judgment (Proverbs 10:14; Proverbs 12:23; Proverbs 13:16). The Hebrew adage says, 'A vessel full of coins will make no noise; but if there be only one coin in it, it will make a rattle.' The more learned one is, the more modest he will be; the more unlearned, the more presumptuous and ostentatious.


Verse 34

Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.

Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin (is) a reproach to any people - Hebrew, 'to peoples,' plural; whereas "a nation" is singular, implying the paucity of the nations observing righteousness, and the multitude of those that nationally sin. The Hebrew for "reproach" (chesed) means also mercy. Hence, Gejer translates, 'Mercy is an expiatory sacrifice for sin;' "sin" being sometimes used for sin offering (Exodus 29:14; Hosea 4:8). Not that mercy puts away sin before God, but before men, who are by mercy reconciled to those who had before been unmerciful to them. But the Chaldaic ('sin is the reproach of a people') supports the English version. So in the main Vulgate ('sin makes people miserable'). The Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic ('sins diminish peoples'). In Leviticus 20:17, chesed is used for "shameful wickedness."


Verse 35

The king's favour is toward a wise servant: but his wrath is against him that causeth shame.

The king's favour (is) toward a wise servant: but his wrath is (against) him that causeth shame - (Proverbs 10:5.) 'He that causeth shame,' by his want of wisdom (including skill and diligence), 'is the object of his wrath.'

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/proverbs-14.html. 1871-8.

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Wednesday, September 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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