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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Proverbs 20

 

 

Verse 1

Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.

Wine is a mocker. Wine makes those who drink it mockers of God and of men.

Strong drink (Hebrew, sheekaar (H7941)) is raging - or tumultuously clamorous. It makes its drinkers so. Sheekaar includes every strong drink besides wine (cf. Leviticus 10:9).

And whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise. 'When wine comes in, mind goes out.' It swallows up the reason, dulls the mind, clouds the brain, stirs up the passions.


Verse 2

The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion: whoso provoketh him to anger sinneth against his own soul.

The fear of a king (the fear which a king excites) (is) as the roaring of a lion: (Whoso) provoketh him to anger sinneth (against) his own soul - (Habakkuk 2:10.) So Adonijah in provoking King Solomon (1 Kings 2:23). How terrible the consequences to one's self of provoking the King of kings! (Psalms 2:12.)


Verse 3

It is an honour for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling. It is an honour for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling.

(It is) an honour for a man to cease from strife. Proverbs 17:14; Proverbs 19:11 forbid beginning strife; this verse bids us to cease from it when it has been begun, which is more difficult, and therefore more glorious. Men think that to give up a strife once begun would detract from their power, wealth, wisdom, or determination. But it is really unseemly in a wise and large-minded man (so the Hebrew, ish, means, in contrast to "fool") to keep up strife, and is only the part of narrow-minded men and petty women.

But every fool will be meddling - in strife (Proverbs 17:14, end).


Verse 4

The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.

The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold - Hebrew, the winter. Disinclination is never in want of excuses. Small difficulties are great to the lazy.

(Therefore) shall he beg in harvest, and (have) nothing. He who will, not plow shall not reap. The Hebrews say, 'He who hath not prepared on the eve of the Sabbath shall not eat on the Sabbath.' Religion now costs something, but the want of it shall hereafter cost infinitely more. 'The shrinking from the cold is the avoiding the cross' (Melancthon).


Verse 5

Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.

Counsel in the heart of man (is like) deep water (the cunning of men's heart is like an unfathomable deep): but a man of understanding will draw it out - by the gift of discernment of spirits, and by tact in eliciting what is in the minds of other men.


Verse 6

Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?

Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness - his own beneficence to others, as the Pharisee did Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness - his own beneficence to others, as the Pharisee did (Luke 18:11).

But a faithful man who can find? - a man who in very deed performs the beneficence which he professes. Few, in acts of so-called charity, do them from sincere love to God and to their neighbour, without reference to their own gain or honour,


Verse 7

The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.

The just (man) walketh in his integrity: his children (are) blessed after him. So far is it from being the case, as many suppose, that the just, by uprightness, stand in their own light, and expose themselves and their children to poverty.


Verse 8

A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment scattereth away all evil with his eyes.

A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment (actively exercising judgment, and giving himself up to his royal duties-so Yahweh, Psalms 9:4) scattereth away all evil with his eyes. "Scattereth," or 'fanneth away,' as the wind separates the chaff from the wheat (Psalms 1:4; Matthew 3:12; 2 Chronicles 15:16). "With his eyes" - i:e., with his own eyes inspecting all things, and not delegating his duty to deputies. So the King of kings (Habakkuk 1:13; Psalms 5:5).


Verse 9

Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?

Who can say (with truth), I have made my heart clean. Nay, we ought to say, "Create in me a clean heart, O God" (Psalms 51:10.)

I am pure from my sin? Contrast Job 15:14; Job 25:4. In a relative sense a man may say, by faith in the Redeemer, 'I am pure from the guilt of sin' (Psalms 73:13).


Verse 10

Divers weights, and divers measures, both of them are alike abomination to the LORD.

Divers weights - Hebrew, 'a stone and a stone' - i:e., one weight in buying; a different one in selling.

Divers measures - Hebrew, 'an ephah and an ephah.' All injustice in the common contact of life.


Verse 11

Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.

Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work (be) pure, and whether (it be) right. A child gives indications of what kind of a man he is likely to be-pure and upright, or the reverse. Parents ought to observe the sports, the gait, the words, and the deeds of a boy, so as to discover for what profession he is best fitted, to what virtues and to what vices he is inclined. Little things often indicate disposition. A judgment can the better be formed of children, because they are seldom hypocrites.


Verse 12

The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them.

The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them - therefore He surely sees and hears all things (Psalms 94:9). "The hearing ear is the ear which reverently and eagerly heareth the Word of God, of parents, and of preceptors (Proverbs 15:31; Proverbs 25:12): the opposite to the stopped ear (Psalms 58:4); the heavy ear (Isaiah 6:10). "The seeing eye" is the eye which eagerly and intelligently looks into the works and Word of God (Proverbs 3:21; Deuteronomy 11:7). We should consider the design for which God has given us these two leading organs of sense, and also remember that it is of God's grace alone that we can use them aright.


Verse 13

Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread. Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread.

Love not sleep. To sleep is a matter of necessity; to love sleep is the mark of indolence.

Open thine eyes. God has given the eye not to be always closed, but, after necessary repose, to be opened to see and watch (Proverbs 20:12).


Verse 14

It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer: but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth.

It is naught, it is naught (the ware on sale is bad in quality and quantity), saith the buyer. The repetition expresses superlative worthlessness. The buyer says the same thing over and over again.

But when he is gone his way, then he boasteth - of what a clever bargain he has made; what a good thing he has gotten at a cheap price. We must not do as the world commonly does.


Verse 15

There is gold, and a multitude of rubies: but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.

There is gold, and a multitude of rubies: but the lips of knowledge (discreet godly speech) (are) a precious jewel - far more precious than either gold or rubies, however abundant.


Verse 16

Take his garment that is surety for a stranger: and take a pledge of him for a strange woman.

Take his garment that is surety (for) a stranger - addressed to the creditor. Take from the surety the amount that he has made himself responsible for. The design is to show graphically the risk of becoming surety for another; if, as usually happens, the debtor fail to pay, the surety must, in his stead, fall under the power of the creditor.

And take a pledge of him for a strange woman - for whom he has gone surety. The Chaldaic reads as the English version, with the Qeri' [ naak


Verse 17

Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel.

Bread of deceit - bread obtained by deceit (Proverbs 4:17; Proverbs 23:3). If the Qeri' reading, as in the English version, Proverbs 20:16, be taken, "bread of deceit" will mean secret adultery, sweet at the time, but deadly in the end: 'Nocet empta dolore voluptas'-Fatal is the pleasure bought with pain (Job 20:12-16).

But afterward his mouth shall be filled with gravel. Grit often mixes with bread baked in the ashes, according to the eastern custom (Lamentations 3:16).


Verse 18

Every purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war.

And with good advice make war - for victory is more often obtained by skill than by strength. First sit down and count the cost, and prepare your plans (Luke 14:31-32). The Lord alone can 'establish purposes' (1 Chronicles 29:18).


Verse 19

He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.

A talebearer - Hebrew, raakiyl (Hebrew #7400); a detractor; literally, a trafficker, who 'goeth about' offering his wares of scandal, and 'revealing secrets,' to the prejudice of others.

Meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips - to elicit from thee what he may afterward repeat to others. Though there is need of "counsel" (Proverbs 20:19), yet it is not safe to ask it from everyone, and to tell secrets to everyone; for many go about as "talebearers," 'revealing secrets' which they have elicited by 'flattery.'


Verse 20

Whoso curseth his father or his mother, his lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness.

Whoso curseth his father ... his lamp (the temporary prosperity which he may have) shall be put out in obscure darkness - literally, 'in the obscurity of darkness;' i:e., in the most extreme misery, the outer and everlasting darkness.


Verse 21

An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning; but the end thereof shall not be blessed.

An inheritance (may be) gotten hastily, [so the Qeri' reads, m


Verse 22

Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the LORD, and he shall save thee.

Say not thou, I will recompense evil - for evil: I will avenge myself. Romans 12:17; Romans 12:19 alludes to this, as also to Proverbs 25:21-22. Deuteronomy 32:35; Deuteronomy 32:41 is the fundamental passage in which God claims 'vengeance and recompense' as His special prerogative (Jeremiah 51:56).

But wait on the Lord - leaving thy cause in His hand. He is as able as He is willing to right thy wrong. It is want of patient trust in God which makes men impatient to avenge themselves. Do not pray to God to take vengeance on thy personal enemy, but to defend thee.


Verse 23

Divers weights are an abomination unto the LORD and a false balance is not good.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 24

Man's goings are of the LORD how can a man then understand his own way?

Man's (Hebrew, gaaber (H1397): a mighty man's) goings (are) of the Lord. Whatever success attends mighty warriors, as Julius Caesar, Alexander, Napoleon, etc., is entirely due to the Lord.

How can a man ( 'aadaam (H120): man in general) then understand his own way? As the former clause attributes to the Lord exclusively the ordering of great men's goings, in order to attain success; so this clause attributes to Him, to the exclusion of man, the prescient understanding of man's course. God directs natural actions by ordinary providence, spiritual actions by His special providence, which foreordains from eternity, awakens the sinner, removes obstacles, suggests that state of life wherein He foresees that the man will not fall away, but attain to glory. However a man may understand his way in respect to its beginning and aim, yet he understands not the best means in doubtful cases, nor can he ensure the issue. We ought therefore to call upon God in all our undertakings, for His overruling guidance, and not trust in our own sagacity.


Verse 25

It is a snare to the man who devoureth that which is holy, and after vows to make inquiry.

(It is) a snare (entailing guilt and penalties on both body and soul) to the man (who) devoureth (that which is) holy (dedicated to sacred uses) and after vows to make inquiry. "Devoureth" - i:e., greedily appropriates to his own use. So Ananias and Sapphira, after vowing, appropriated a part of what they vowed, and sought means of evading the vow, but perished in the attempt. So Achan sought means of appropriating part of the spoils which had been all "devoted as an accursed thing," (margin, Joshua 6:17-18; Joshua 7:1; cf. Malachi 3:8-10; Deuteronomy 23:21; Numbers 30:1.) Many in Malachi's (Malachi 1:13-14) days, after vowing, sought to escape the cost by sacrificing unto the Lord a corrupt thing." The old Hebrew interpreters take the Hebrew for "devoureth" ( yaala` (Hebrew #3217)) as 'speaketh rashly.' It is a perilous snare for a man to utter rashly a vow, and afterward to inquire whether he is able to pay his vow, for the inquiry ought to have been made before he vowed. The Vulgate supports the English version. The Septuagint, Chaldaic, Syriac, and Arabic translate, 'to vow,' or 'consecrate,' which seems to take the other sense.


Verse 26

A wise king scattereth the wicked, and bringeth the wheel over them.

A wise king scattereth the wicked - like chaff before the wind (Proverbs 20:8).

And bringeth the wheel over them - the wheel of the threshing instrument, that he may disperse them as stubble and chaff (Psalms 83:13; Isaiah 28:27; Isaiah 25:10; Isaiah 41:15; 2 Kings 13:7; Amos 1:3). "Tribulation" is derived from Tracey, a threshing instrument.


Verse 27

The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly.

The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord - a candle or lamp lit by the Lord; a light divinely given to man. Conscience is this candle.

Searching all the inward parts of the belly - searching and discovering the inmost secrets of every man. Conscience is 'God in man'-a witness for God, acquitting or else condemning the man before himself, (Romans 2:14-15). It needs to be lit up by God's Word (Proverbs 6:23). Let us see that we be willing that our "inward parts" be all searched by the light, and no secret sin spared (John 3:21; Acts 24:16; Acts 23:1; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 1 John 3:20-21).


Verse 28

Mercy and truth preserve the king: and his throne is upholden by mercy.

Mercy (toward the miserable and needy) and truth (in fulfilling his word) preserve the king.} Truth is not to be sacrificed to mercy, but both to be combined in harmony. As he himself needs the mercy of God, so must he show mercy toward others.


Verse 29

The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the gray head.

The glory of young men (is) their strength (so long as they rightly use it); and the beauty of old men (is) the grey head - when it is found "in the way of righteousness" (Proverbs 16:31). The world and the Church need both: the strength of young men for active service; the experience of the hoary-headed for counsel.


Verse 30

The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.

The blueness of a wound (severe chastisement, of which blueness of a wound is the sign) cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly. The "evil" lies deep in "the inward parts of the belly;" therefore "stripes" are needed, which are so severe as to produce livid marks of wounds (cf. Proverbs 27:6). To be "chastened of the Lord" saves one from being "condemned with the world" (1 Corinthians 11:32). Manasseh's Babylonian "fetters" were the instruments of saving him from the "everlasting chains" (Jude 1:6; 2 Chronicles 33:11-13). Pain is often the remedy of more fatal pains.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/proverbs-20.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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