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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Proverbs 15

 

 

Verse 1

A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.

A soft answer - like oil soothing the pain of a wound (Psalms 55:21; Isaiah 1:6 ).

But grievous words stir up anger - lit, 'make it to ascend,' like a flame fanned by bellows; the indication of anger rises up to the countenance.


Verse 2

The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.

The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright - in the seasonable time, and proper place, and with due regard to the character of the hearers; all being adjusted to the balance of the sanctuary.

But the mouth of fools poureth out [ yabiya` (H5042)] foolishness - babbleth it out at random, without choice or digested order, confusedly, copiously, with rapidity, and continuously, like a bubbling fountain.


Verse 3

The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.

The eyes of the Lord are in every place beholding the evil and the good. He mentions "the evil" first, because they avowedly, or else practically, deny God's providence (Jeremiah 16:17).


Verse 4

A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.

A wholesome tongue - sound in itself and healthful to others, by its knowledge, prudence, sincerity: speech framed according to the laws of the heavenly pharmacopoeia, with the various Scripture ingredients for healing soul-sickness, and for strengthening those spiritually well (Gejer). But perverseness therein (is) a breach in the spirit. Deceit, error, reviling, filthy speaking, and frivolity, not only do not heal the sick in soul, but increase their spiritual malady, and corrupt those whole, tainting their integrity, and affecting them with various evils.


Verse 5

A fool despiseth his father's instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent.

A fool despiseth his father's instruction - whether through carelessness, sloth, or love of pleasure or gain. A father is instanced as representative of monitors of every kind, on account of his special authority, as also because of the love which prompts a father's 'disciplinary instruction' (so the Hebrew).


Verse 6

In the house of the righteous is much treasure: but in the revenues of the wicked is trouble.

In the house of the righteous (is) much treasure - (Hebrew, chosen,) literally, strength, wealth: being regarded by men as their strength. Here it is wealth secured permanently to the righteous, in contrast to the trouble that is in the revenues of the wicked.

Trouble that is in the revenues of the wicked - i:e., the overthrow of their revenues, which is speedily coming, and of which the germ is therein already.


Verse 7

The lips of the wise disperse knowledge: but the heart of the foolish doeth not so.

The lips of the wise disperse knowledge - like good seed, wheresoever they can, assiduously and watchfully availing themselves of every opportunity to lead others to know the Lord.

But the heart of the foolish (doeth) not so. Their "heart" is faulty, and so their lips cannot speak aright. Maurer translates '(scattereth) not what is RIGHT' [ lo' (Hebrew #3808) keen (Hebrew #3651)]. The Chaldaic and Vulgate support the English version. If their lips speak knowledge at times, it is hypocritically, for the heart within is void of true knowledge. When the fountain-head is dry, how can the channels flow with waters of life? "The lips of the wise disperse the knowledge" which he has first treasured in "the heart." Each clause is to be filled up from the other; they mutually complement one another.


Verse 8

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight.

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord: but the prayer of the upright is his delight.

However costly and solemn be the outward show of the wicked man's "sacrifice," it not only is not the Lord's "delight," as is the upright, man's simple "prayer," but it is a positive "abomination." The unbelieving please themselves with external ceremonials, without piety of heart and life. The godly offer real prayer; the ungodly offer an empty sound. Outward "sacrifice" (with which the wicked compound for obedience, 1 Samuel 15:22) is attributed to them; "prayer" to the upright.


Verse 9

The way of the wicked is an abomination unto the LORD: but he loveth him that followeth after righteousness.

The way of the wicked is an abomination unto the Lord - not only his "sacrifice," or worship toward God (Proverbs 15:8), is an abomination to the Lord, but his "way," or conduct in relation to his fellowman. So far are worldlings from having merit before God, because of their fancied obedience to the second table of the law (as is the common notion), that even their way in the world is abomination itself to Him. The tree must first be good - i:e., the heart purified by faith-before the fruit can be good.

But he loveth him that followeth after righteousness - not perfunctorily, or occasionally, but straining every effort after righteousness as the one grand object of pursuit.


Verse 10

Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die.

Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way - as it was to Ahab (1 Kings 22:8; 1 Kings 21:20; 1 Kings 18:17); and to Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 36:23). But better is "correction," though "grievous," than 'death' eternal, which is the end of him who, through 'hatred' of "reproof," "forsaketh the way."

(And) he that hateth reproof shall die. From regarding "correction" as "grievous" at first, he comes at last to positive and inveterate 'hatred' of it.


Verse 11

Hell and destruction are before the LORD: how much more then the hearts of the children of men?

Hell and destruction (Hebrew, Sheol and Abaddon) (are) before the Lord. "Destruction" - i:e., the place of destruction or damnation; Gehenna, as distinguished from Sheol or Hades the unseen world of departed spirits in general. Though unseen by our eyes, those dark abodes are plainly seen by God (Proverbs 15:3; Job 26:6; cf. Job 28:22). "The angel of the bottomless pit" is called in Hebrew, "Abaddon;" in Greek, "Apollyon" (Revelation 9:11).

How much more then the hearts of the children of men? Let not 'forsakers of the way' (Proverbs 15:10) think even their secret thoughts can escape the eye of God.


Verse 12

A scorner loveth not one that reproveth him: neither will he go unto the wise.

A scorner loveth not one that reproveth him neither will he go unto the wise - lest they should reprove him. He is wise who waits not for the wise to come to him, but goes to them. To shun faithful reprovers is to prepare one's self to be a scorner.


Verse 13

A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.

A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance. There is a sympathy between the body and the mind, so that a happy mind is reflected in the happy expression of countenance.

But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken - and therefore the countenance (supplied from the parallel clause) also wears an afflicted expression.


Verse 14

The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness.

The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge. "The heart," because such a one seeks it not perfunctorily and casually, but with all the heart.

But the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness. "The mouth" [ piy (Hebrew #6310)], so the Masoretic text has it, adding, however, that in some copies it is 'the countenance'-literally, countenances [p


Verse 15

All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.

All the days of the afflicted are evil. Of those whose affliction causes them to lose a hopeful "heart," as the opposite clause requires, cf. Nehemiah 2:2.

But he that is of a merry heart (hath) a continual feast - literally, a 'continual marriage feast' (Judges 14:10), or 'a convivial feast, where drink is served up,' and which from beginning to end is all enjoyment. Joy and contentments within dispel outward sorrows, poverty, etc. (Ecclesiastes 9:7).


Verse 16

Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith.

Better (is) little with fear of the Lord, than great treasure, and trouble therewith - the usual accompaniment of "great treasure" (cf. Proverbs 16:8; Proverbs 17:1). Where the "fear of the Lord" is, there is quiet; where it is not, there is "trouble." Riches, so far from averting, bring trouble in acquiring, defending administering, and losing them. So that the "little" is to be preferred that is accompanied with the "fear of the Lord," both for passing this life in quiet, free from envy, snares, and cares, and also for obtaining eternal life.


Verse 17

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.

Better (is) a dinner (Hebrew, '


Verse 18

A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.

A wrathful man stirreth up strife - even where there was perfect harmony. He gives occasion to, and takes up hastily any occasion given for strife. "Stirreth up" (Hebrew, geerah) - literally, mixes, implying the reciprocal idea of giving and taking offence.

But he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife - so far is he from stirring it up.


Verse 19

The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain.

The way of the slothful (man is) as an hedge of thorns. It seems to him as if a hedge of thorns was in his way, if he has any work to do; especially so when he is urged to enter upon the way of the Lord's commandments (Proverbs 26:13). He sees difficulties where all is plain to the willing and the resolute (Proverbs 20:4; Proverbs 22:13).

But the way of the righteous is made plain - or 'is raised as a level causeway,' since he is the opposite of "slothful;" that is, industrious; whereas, "the slothful" is the opposite of "righteous;" that is, unrighteous. Righteousness takes difficulties out of the way, and by frequent action forms the habit, like a well-trodden and level path, so that 'they shall have no stumbling-block' (margin, Psalms 119:165).


Verse 20

A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man despiseth his mother.

A wise son maketh a glad father (since he honours his father): but a foolish man despiseth his mother - and so makes her sad (the opposite of 'maketh glad'): this is supplied in Proverbs 10:1 - "A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son (is) the heaviness of his mother." One particular in which children show themselves "wise" or else "foolish," and so can gladden or else sadden their parents, is by giving or withholding due honour. "A foolish man" (Hebrew, k


Verse 21

Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom: but a man of understanding walketh uprightly.

Folly (is) joy to (him that is) destitute of wisdom - (Proverbs 10:23.) "Folly," i:e., sin.

But a man of understanding walketh uprightly - conformably to the will of God, the true standard of right. The wicked being "destitute" of true "wisdom," have "joy" in (Proverbs 15:15; cf. Job 20:12), and therefore 'walk' in sin, which is crookedness. The godly being men of understanding, have "joy" in uprightness, and therefore 'walk' on in it. They are deeply sorry when they have been temporarily betrayed into sin (2 Corinthians 7:10-11).


Verse 22

Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.

Without counsel (Hebrew, sod-literally, secret counsel) purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of (good) counselors they are (each) established. This is the force of the plural noun with the verb singular. Compare with this verse Proverbs 11:14.


Verse 23

A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!

A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth - by every wise and seasonable speech that he utters in conversation, as the parallel clause requires.

And a word (spoken) in due season, how good (is it)! It is as pre-eminently "good" as it is rare (Proverbs 25:11).


Verse 24

The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath.

The way of life (is) above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath. The way of the wise tends upwards toward the heavenly life of the angels (cf. Philippians 3:20; Colossians 3:1). His aspirations and desires are heavenwards. 'In proportion as each thing in this machine of the world is more elevated, the more noble and excellent it is, as heaven excels the elements' (Rabbi Levi).


Verse 25

The LORD will destroy the house of the proud: but he will establish the border of the widow.

The Lord will destroy the house of the proud: but he will establish the border of the widow - whom "the proud" had driven from the border of her possession. The moving of the landmark is specially forbidden (Deuteronomy 19:14). The proud, by oppression, build a strong "house," or family, which they are confident will never be overthrown. The widow (Hebrew, 'almaanaah (Hebrew #490), from 'aalam (Hebrew #481), to be mute, or powerless against adversaries) seems to the proud a prey that can offer no resistance. But God will destroy the seemingly strong "house" of the proud; and will protect not only the house, but even the extreme "border" of the widow.


Verse 26

The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD: but the words of the pure are pleasant words. The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord: but (the words) of the pure (are) pleasant words - Hebrew, 'words of pleasantness.' Each clause is to be supplied from the other. "The thoughts of the wicked (and therefore also their words flowing from their thoughts) are an abomination to the Lord: but (the thoughts, and therefore) the words of the pure are pleasant words." According as the thoughts are bad or good, so the words are abomination or pleasantness before the Lord. It is a vain excuse for bad words to say, 'I meant no harm' (T. Cartwright). Gejer and Maurer translate, 'But pleasant words (i:e., words breathing grace, and not worldly vanity, Proverbs 16:23-24) are pure (i:e., acceptable) words.' Thus, "pure," or 'clean,' before the Lord, is antithetical to "an abomination to the Lord." I prefer the English version (cf. James 4:8).


Verse 27

He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live.

He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house (by taking gifts as a judge, Exodus 23:8, and therefore shall die): but he that hateth gifts shall live - and in the meantime troubleth not his house-namely, by introducing an element of evil ruinous to his house, as Achan's secreting of the Babylonian garment and the gold proved a "trouble" to his own house and to Israel, and brought death on himself at last (Joshua 7:21-25; Joshua 6:18; cf. Galatians 5:12). Seeking to aggrandize himself and his house, he only troubles it and ruins himself (Habakkuk 2:10). It is not enough to abstain from evil, we must also 'hate' it (Psalms 97:10).


Verse 28

The heart of the righteous studieth to answer: but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things.

The heart of the righteous studieth to answer (speaketh nothing without due premeditation: doth not rashly 'pour out' whatever comes uppermost): but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things - in great copiousness, and without intermission. He "studieth" not beforehand what "to answer." Speaking so much, he cannot but speak "evil things" (Proverbs 10:19). Not his heart, as in the case of the righteous, but his "mouth" takes the lead.


Verse 29

The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.

The Lord is far from the wicked (i:e., far from 'hearing their prayer'): but he heareth the prayer of the The Lord is far from the wicked (i:e., far from 'hearing their prayer'): but he heareth the prayer of the righteous (Psalms 34:15-16).


Verse 30

The light of the eyes rejoiceth the heart: and a good report maketh the bones fat.

The light of the eyes (the eyes of a great man regarding one with favour, Proverbs 16:15; especially the "light of God's countenance" lifted up upon one, Psalms 4:6; Psalms 36:9) rejoiceth the heart: (and) a good report maketh the bones fat - as it were, supplies them with marrow; affects with good the very inmost parts of the frame, through the sympathy that there is between the mind and the body. Such is the effect on the whole man of hearing effectually the Gospel "good report," or message of the King of kings.


Verse 31

The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise.

The ear that heareth the reproof of life (the reproof that leads to life in the highest sense) abideth among the wise - literally, 'passeth the night' [ taaliyn (Hebrew #3885)] - i:e., abides continually: not even at night doth such a one cease to associate with or among the wise-literally, in the interior of the wise, in the very midst of them. Abiding thus in intimacy with them here, he shall be numbered among them forever hereafter.


Verse 32

He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.

He that refuseth instruction (literally, discipline) despiseth his own soul - (Proverbs 8:36.) It is himself that he slights while he slights disciplinary instruction.

Understanding - literally, heart.


Verse 33

The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.

The fear of the Lord (is) the instruction (Hebrew, the discipline) of wisdom - `the discipline' whereby "wisdom" is acquired (Psalms 111:10). "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (cf. Proverbs 1:7). Here the same sentiment occurs, with the additional notion of discipline or correction attached. Chastening, when sanctified, generates "fear of the Lord," which is the first step in true "wisdom."

And before honour is humility - not, humility is preferable to honour; but "humility," under the Lord's discipline or correction (as the parallel clause requires) goes "before honour," just as "before destruction the heart of man is haughty" (Proverbs 18:12; Proverbs 22:4; Zephaniah 2:3). Discipline is the necessary condition of heavenly wisdom-that is, piety; piety, though requiring, on man's part, humility under discipline, eventuates in honour.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 15:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/proverbs-15.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, August 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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