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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Proverbs 21

 

 

Verse 1

The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.

The king's heart (is) in the hand of the Lord, (as) the rivers of water: he turneth it wheresoever he will - with as much ease as gardeners turn waters for irrigation into whatsoever channels they please. The Lord has all men's hearts in his hands; but kings are singled out, as to turn their hearts seems especially difficult, because of their eminence and majesty, and because they are borne along impulsively to whatsoever they are inclined. So "the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia" to invite the Jews to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:1-4). He also turns the hearts of bad kings "to fulfill His will" (Revelation 17:17).


Verse 2

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts - the inward motives (Proverbs 16:2, note).


Verse 3

To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.

To do justice and judgment (is) more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. Moral precepts are the end, positive precepts are the means. Both must be obeyed; but the end is more important than the means. To substitute ceremonial obedience for moral is rank hypocrisy (1 Samuel 15:22; Micah 6:7-8).


Verse 4

An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin.

An high look (haughtiness of eyes; Proverbs 6:17; Psalms 6:4; Isaiah 2:11), and a proud heart (enlargement or swelling of heart), (and) the plowing} [ nir (Hebrew #5215)] of the wicked, (is) sin.} "The plowing of the wicked:" their thoughts and occupations. The fallow-land of pride which the wicked plow yields sin as its fruit (Hosea 10:12; Proverbs 10:16, end; Jeremiah 4:3). The Chaldaic, Septuagint, Vulgate, Arabic, and Syriac, translate, 'the light (or lamp) of the wicked' (cf. Proverbs 13:9; Proverbs 24:20; Job 21:17): that in which they glory, their worldly prosperity, beauty. strength, children-all which are the basis of their pride. The English version is supported by the use of the same Hebrew (nir) in a similar sense in Proverbs 13:23. In the English version the truth is implied, that none should make the difficulty of piety and the ease of sinning a plea for sin: for in fact sinning is as laborious drudgery as plowing is to the farmer (cf. Jeremiah 9:15, end; Habakkuk 2:13).


Verse 5

The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want.

The thoughts of the diligent (and the steady-persevering) (tend) only to plenteousness; but of everyone (that is) hasty (and therefore not perseveringly diligent), only to want - (Proverbs 10:4; Proverbs 13:4.) Lord Bacon advises us 'not to measure despatch by the times of sitting, but by the advancement of the business. A wise man had it for a by-word, when he saw men hasten to a conclusion, Stay a little, that we may make an end the sooner. To choose time is to save time.' "Let us run," not with haste, but "with patience, the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1; cf. Matthew 13:5-6, "forthwith," Matthew 13:20-21; Romans 2:7).


Verse 6

The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death.

The getting of treasures by a lying tongue (by false witness, or by misrepresentation in bargaining) (is) a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death - is as a vapour tossed to and fro by the wind; and it is the act "of them that" eventually, though unconsciously, 'are seeking death' eternal. The Hebrew for "vanity" ( hebel (Hebrew #1892)) means vapour (cf. Psalms 68:2). Those that seek treasures by lying are all the time virtually seeking death (Proverbs 11:27, end).


Verse 7

The robbery of the wicked shall destroy them; because they refuse to do judgment.

The robbery of (i:e., perpetrated by) the wicked shall destroy them, [or else shall make them to fear: from guwr (H1481) (Gejer): Maurer takes it from gaarar (H1641), as in Habakkuk 1:15, shall sweep them away as fish gathered in a net; but Kimchi, in the sense shall destroy them as with a saw]; because they refuse to do judgment. They sin not through ignorance or precipitancy, but willfully through wantonness. Doing justice toward our neighbour is one test of our sincerity of faith toward God.


Verse 8

The way of man is froward and strange: but as for the pure, his work is right.

The way of man (is) froward and strange - rather, 'The way of a man (that is) froward (is) also strange.' The Hebrew, ish, expresses a man once good: "froward" implies his perversity by having left the good way. 'Is also strange' is the predicate. He who is perverted from goodness thereby becomes also alien to God and to the congregation of "the pure."

But (as for) the pure, his work (is) right. So also marks the predicate in Proverbs 28:16. Thus the difficulty is avoided of saying, "The way of man ( 'iysh (Hebrew #376), a good man) is froward." Moreover, the balance of the parallel clauses is better. The way of man that is perverted, is also strange to, or alienated from, God; but as for the pure, i:e., the sincere, his work is right, and so his way is one of near communion with God (Matthew 5:8).


Verse 9

It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.

(It is) better to dwell in a corner of the house-top (though exposed there to wind, rain, heat, and cold), than with a brawling woman (a woman of contentions) in a wide house (a house of community: i:e., a house shared with her). The flat roofs in Eastern houses are often used as places of retreat for meditation and prayer (Acts 10:9).


Verse 10

The soul of the wicked desireth evil: his neighbour findeth no favour in his eyes.

The soul of the wicked desireth evil - eagerly. The noblest part of man is in him wholly engrossed in evil.

His neighbour findeth no favour in his eyes - he does not spare even his neighhour, however friendly his neighbour may have shown himself. His love of evil outweighs every other consideration, such as love, friendship, gratitude.


Verse 11

When the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise: and when the wise is instructed, he receiveth knowledge.

When the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise - (note, Proverbs 19:25.) and when the wise is instructed, he receiveth (accepteth) knowledge}-he becometh wiser.


Verse 12

The righteous man wisely considereth the house of the wicked: but God overthroweth the wicked for their wickedness.

The righteous (man) wisely considereth the house of the wicked: (but God) overthroweth the wicked for (their) wickedness. "The righteous wisely considereth" that though "the house of the wicked" seems flourishing now, yet "the wicked" are doomed to be overthrown "for their wickedness." As it presents a difficulty that a different subject ("God") is supplied to "overthroweth" from the subject to "considereth" ("the righteous man"), I prefer to take "the righteous (man)" as subject to both: then "overthroweth" is used as "to destroy and to throw down" is used in Jeremiah 1:10, of announcing God's purpose to overthrow: 'The righteous considereth wisely as to l


Verse 13

Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.

Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor (for mercy), he also shall cry himself, but shall not he heard - (Proverbs 1:28.) Retribution in kind (James 2:13). The unmerciful toward their fellow-men shall cry in vain for mercy from God (Matthew 18:30-35).


Verse 14

A gift in secret pacifieth anger: and a reward in the bosom strong wrath.

A gift in secret pacifieth anger. Strong as is the passion of anger, it will yield to the stronger passion, cupidity. The secrecy implies guilty presents (Proverbs 17:23). Not honourable gifts, such as Jacob's to pacify Esau (Genesis 32:20).


Verse 15

It is joy to the just to do judgment: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity. (It is) joy to the just to do judgment: but destruction (shall be) to the workers of iniquity - or else, to suit the parallelism, 'but (it is) terror to the workers of iniquity (to do judgment). The English version may be supplied thus (for often one clause has to be supplied from the opposite): 'It is joy to the just to do judgment (justice), and ends in salvation; "but" it is a grief "to the workers of iniquity," so that they do it not, and therefore the issue 'shall be destruction' to them.


Verse 16

The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead.

The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding (i:e., true religion; cf. Jude 1:11-12; 2 Peter 2:20-22) shall remain in the congregation of the dead - the lost (Proverbs 9:18). "The dead," Hebrew, r


Verse 17

He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich.

He that loveth wine and oil - i:e., unguents used to anoint the person at banquets (Ecclesiastes 9:7-9). To use these is lawful, to 'love' them is inconsistent with the love God, which alone maketh truly "rich" (1 John 2:15; 1 Corinthians 7:29).


Verse 18

The wicked shall be a ransom for the righteous, and the transgressor for the upright.

The wicked (shall be) a ransom for the righteous, and the transgressor for the upright. The righteous are saved from impending destruction, and the wicked come in their room (Proverbs 11:8; Joshua 7:25).


Verse 19

It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.

Compare Proverbs 21:9.


Verse 20

There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.

There is treasure to be desired (valuable store), and oil (a leading article of wealth in Judea, Judges 9:9; Hosea 2:22) in the dwelling (literally, the cottage) of the wise.} Though the godly wise may have but a cottage, yet they have ample store for their need, and they use it with prudent economy.

But a foolish man spendeth (swalloweth) it up - wastes in extravagance what he ought to store up for future use.


Verse 21

He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness, and honour.

He that followeth after (with great zeal and earnestness) righteousness and mercy findeth life (the gift of divine mercy), righteousness (its own reward, Hosea 10:12; Matthew 5:6), and honour - though now often put to dishonour by men (2 Corinthians 6:8; Romans 2:7).


Verse 22

A wise man scaleth the city of the mighty, and casteth down the strength of the confidence thereof.

A wise (man) scaleth the city of the mighty, and casteth down the strength of the confidence thereof - (Ecclesiastes 7:19; Ecclesiastes 9:14-16.) Wisdom is more efficacious than might.


Verse 23

Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.

Whoso keepeth his mouth - as the, well-guarded gates of the city. The "mouth" is the gate; the "soul," the city (Proverbs 12:13; Proverbs 13:2-3; James 3:2).


Verse 24

Proud and haughty scorner is his name, who dealeth in proud wrath.

Proud (and) haughty scorner (is) his name who dealeth in proud wrath - literally, in the wrath of pride:' who gives loose rein to passion, combined with pride, on the slightest or on no provocation. So Haman was filled with proud wrath because Mordecai did not bow to him (Esther 3:5). The penalty of proud wrath is though such persons seem to themselves men of high and right spirit, yet their true name shall at last be known as "proud scorners" (cf. Habakkuk 2:5). So Pharaoh, Exodus 5:2; Sennacherib, 2 Kings 18:35. Contrast Malachi 3:2 with 15.


Verse 25

The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour.

The desire of the slothful killeth him (with disappointed hopes, Proverbs 13:12, ending in want of all necessaries, Proverbs 20:4); for his hands refuse to labour. He is always only desiring: refusing to do anything in the way of labour for the attainment of his desire (Proverbs 13:4).


Verse 26

He coveteth greedily all the day long: but the righteous giveth and spareth not.

He (the slothful, Proverbs 21:25) coveteth greedily (literally, coveteth a covetousness) all the day long: but the righteous giveth and spareth not.} So far is the righteous man from 'greedily coveting' the goods of others, like the slothful, that by honest industry (Ephesians 4:28) he has his moderate desires abundantly satisfied, and he giveth unsparingly to others of his own property (Psalms 37:25-26).


Verse 27

The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination: how much more, when he bringeth it with a wicked mind?

The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination (under an circumstances; Proverbs 15:8); how much more (when) he bringeth it with a wicked mind? - harbouring some wicked purpose at the very time. As Balak and Balaam offered their sacrifices with a view to induce God to curse His people Israel (Numbers 23:1-3; Numbers 23:13); Absalom (2 Samuel 15:7-10) and Jezebel, as a cloak for treachery (1 Kings 21:9-12); the adulteress, to lull her dupe (Proverbs 7:14-15).


Verse 28

A false witness shall perish: but the man that heareth speaketh constantly.

A false witness shall perish: but the man that heareth (i:e., who testifies only to what he himself has heard) speaketh constantly - i:e., shall continually have the power given him to be a witness. He shall not be put to silence as a liar (Proverbs 19:5; Proverbs 19:9). Gejer takes "heareth in the sense, "the man that heareth" those things only which ought to be heard-namely, the commandments of God, among which is this one, Do not bear false witness (Rabbi Salomon); the man who is swift to hear, slow to speak (James 1:19), who heareth such things as tend to edification, charity, and clearing of the innocent.


Verse 29

A wicked man hardeneth his face: but as for the upright, he directeth his way.

A wicked man hardeneth his face: but (as for) the upright, he directeth his way. "A wicked man hardeneth his face" against admonition, so as to persevere in he wrong way; "but the upright," if he be betrayed into an error, hardens not his face against monition, but blushes with shame and sorrow, and so "he directeth his" course in the right way." The Qeri' (margin) reads, 'considereth [ yaabiyn (Hebrew #995)] his way.' The Kethibh (text) reads, [ yaakiyn (Hebrew #3559)] 'directeth his ways:' this is the better reading. The wicked is not to be shamed out of his wickedness. He pertinaciously and unblushingly adheres to it (Proverbs 7:13, margin; Isaiah 3:9; Jeremiah 5:3).


Verse 30

There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD.

(Isaiah 7:9-10; Acts 5:39; cf. the issue of Ahithophel's wise counsel, 2 Samuel 16:23; 2 Samuel 17:1-14; 2 Samuel 17:23.)


Verse 31

The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD.

The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety (so the Chaldaic, Syriac, Vulgate: but margin, etc., 'victory') (is) of the Lord - (Psalms 20:7; Psalms 33:7; Isaiah 31:1.) External helps are to be used, but not to be made the main dependence. The Lord alone is the Saviour and Deliverer.

 


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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 21:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/proverbs-21.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 26th, 2019
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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