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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Proverbs 14

 

 

Verse 1

Proverbs 14:1 Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.

Ver. 1. Every wise woman buildeth her own house.] Quaevis pia perita. Every holy and handy woman buildeth her house; not only by bearing and breeding up children, as Rachel and Leah builded the house of Israel, [Ruth 4:11] but by a prudent and provident preventing of losses and dangers, as Abigail; as also by a careful planning, and putting everything to the best: like as a carpenter that is to build a house, lays the plan and platform of it first in his brain, forecasts in his mind how everything shall be, and then so orders his stuff, that nothing be cut to waste. Lo, such is the guise of the good housewife. As the husband is as the head from whom all the sinews do flow, so she is as the hands into which they flow, and enable them to do their office.

But the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.] With both hands earnestly: she undoes the family whereof she is the calamity, be she never so witty, if with it she be not religious and thrifty, heedy and handy. (a) Be the husband never so frugal, if the wife be idle, or lavish, or proud, or given to gadding and gossipping, &c., he doth but draw water with a sieve, or seek to pull a loaded cart through a sandy way without the help of a horse; it little boots him to bestir himself, for he puts his gets "into a bag with holes." [Haggai 1:6] He "labours in the very fire," [Habakkuk 2:13] as Cowper, bishop of Lincoln, did, whose wife burnt all his notes that he had been eight years in gathering, lest he should kill himself with too much study (for she had much ado to get him to his meals), so that he was forced to fall to work again, and was eight years in gathering the same notes wherewith he composed his dictionary, that useful book. (b) How much happier in a wife was that learned Gul. Budaeus. Coniux mea, saith he, sic mihi morem gerit, ut non tractet negligentius libros meos quam liberos, &c. My wife seeing me bookish, is no less diligent about my books, than about my barns, whom she breeds up with singular care and tenderness. How well might he have done, having such a learned helper, as a countryman of his (c) did, of whom Thuanus reporteth, quod singulis annis singulos libros et liberos, reip. dederit: That he set forth every year a book and a child, a book and a child! But this by the way only.


Verse 2

Proverbs 14:2 He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the LORD: but [he that is] perverse in his ways despiseth him.

Ver. 2. He that walketh in his uprightness, feareth the Lord.] He is "in the fear of the Lord all day long"; [Proverbs 23:17] he walketh "in the fear of the Lord, and in the comforts of the Holy Ghost." [Acts 9:31] "The fear of the Lord is upon him," so that he "takes heed and does it"; [2 Chronicles 19:7] for he knows "it shall be well with them that fear God, that fear before him." [Ecclesiastes 8:12] God’s "covenant was with Levi of life and peace, for the fear wherewith he feared God, and was afraid before his name." Hence "the law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with God in peace and equity, and did turn many from iniquity." [Malachi 2:5-6] He that truly fears God, is like unto Cato, of whom it is said, that he was homo virluti simillimus, and that he never did well that he might appear to do so, sed quia aliter facere non potuit, but because he could not do otherwise.

But he that is perverse in his ways, despiseth him.] Sets him aside, departs from his fear, dares to do that before him that he would be loath to do before a grave person. Thus David "despised God," when he defiled his neighbour’s wife. [2 Samuel 12:9] Not but that even then he had God for his chief end; but he erred in the way, thinking he might fulfil his lust, and keep his God too (he would not forego God upon any terms), as Solomon thought to retain his wisdom, and yet to pursue his pleasures. Hence his partial and temporary apostasy - as the word here rendered "perverse" importeth; his warping and writhing from the way of righteousness - as the Septuagint (a) here interpret it - which was, interpretative, a "despising" of God, a saying, "He seeth it not." [Psalms 10:11]


Verse 3

Proverbs 14:3 In the mouth of the foolish [is] a rod of pride: but the lips of the wise shall preserve them.

Ver. 3. In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride.] Wherewith he beats others, and lays about him like a madman, or rather like a mad dog he bites all he meets, and barks against God himself; till he procure the hate of God and men, and smart for his petulance, being beaten at length with his own rod, as the lion beats himself with his own tail.

But the lips of the wise shall preserve them.] From the aspersion of false and foolish tongues. Their good names are oiled, so that evil reports will not stick to them. Dirt will stick upon a mud wall, not so upon marble. Or if they lie under some undeserved reproach for a season, either by a real or verbal apology they wade out of it, as the eclipsed moon by keeping her motion wades out of the shadow and recovers her splendour. [Isaiah 54:17]


Verse 4

Proverbs 14:4 Where no oxen [are], the crib [is] clean: but much increase [is] by the strength of the ox.

Ver. 4. Where no oxen are, the crib is clean.] The barn and garners are empty. Neque mola, neque farina; no good to be got without hard labour of men and cattle. Let the idle man’s motto be that of the lily, neque laborant, neque nent: "They neither toil nor spin." [Matthew 6:28] Man is born to toil, as the sparks fly upwards. [Job 5:7] And spinster they say is a term given the greatest women in our law. Our lives are called "the lives of our hands," [Isaiah 57:10] because to be maintained by the labour of our hands.

But much increase is by the strength of the ox.] This is one of those beasts that serve ad esum et ad usum, and are profitable both alive and dead. A heathen counselleth good husbands and husbandmens that would thrive in the world to get first a house, then a wife, and then an ox that lustily plougheth and bringeth in much increase. Bede applies this text to painful preachers, set forth by oxen, [1 Corinthians 9:9 Revelation 4:7] for their tolerance and tugging at the work; where these labour lustily there is commonly a harvest of holiness, a crop of comfort. Only they must be dustily diligent. (a)


Verse 5

Proverbs 14:5 A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies.

Ver. 5. A faithful witness will not lie.] Nec prece nec precio, he cannot lend an oath for a need before a magistrate. Nay, he will not lie upon any condition. {See Trapp on "Proverbs 13:5"}

But a false witness will utter lies.] Or, He that telleth lies will be a false witness - he that makes light of a lie will not stick at perjury. That was a foul blur to the Romans of old, if true, that Mirrhanes the Persian general chargeth upon them, Romanis promittere promptum est, promissis autem quanqum iuramento firmatis minime stare; { a} the Romans will presently promise anything, but perform no promise though confirmed with an oath. Of the Romists at this day it is written by an Italian, no stranger to the court of Rome, that their proverb is, Mercatorum est, non regum, stare iuramentis; It is for merchants, not for princes, to stand to what they have sworn. Fides cum hereticis non est servanda is their position, and their practice is accordingly. They play with oaths as the monkey doth with his collar, which he doth slip on for his master’s pleasure, and slip off again for his own. Pascenius scoffs King James for the invention of the oath of allegiance.


Verse 6

Proverbs 14:6 A scorner seeketh wisdom, and [findeth it] not: but knowledge [is] easy unto him that understandeth.

Ver. 6. A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not.] Or, He seeketh wisdom, and he seeketh it not. He seeketh it not seriously, seasonably, duly; he seeks it as a coward seeks his adversary, with a hope he shall not find him; or a man seeks his false coin, which he hath no joy to look upon. "What is truth?" said Pilate in a jeer to Christ, but stayed not for the answer. "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" said those carnal Capernaites, [John 6:52] and away they went, who, if they had stayed out the sermon, might have been satisfied in the point. Herod sought to see Christ, but never sent for him, nor went to him; and when the Lord Christ was brought before him, he looked upon him no otherwise than as upon some magician to show him some tricks and make him sport, and is therefore answered with silence.

But knowledge is easy to him that doth understand.] In any science the worst is at first; as the root of the herb moly in Homer is said to be black and unsightly, but the leaf lovely and the fruit pleasant. The more a man sees into heavenly mysteries the more he may. "I love them that love me," saith wisdom, "and those that seek me early shall find me." [Proverbs 8:17] Provided that they be not proud persons, but come with a desire to learn and a resolution to practise. He that comes to a fountain to fill his pitcher, must first wash it, and then put the mouth of it downward to take up water. So he that would have heavenly knowledge must first quit his heart of corrupt affections and high conceits - intus existens prohibet alienum - and then humble himself at God’s feet, "every one to receive his words" Deuteronomy 33:3. {See Trapp on "Proverbs 8:9"}


Verse 7

Proverbs 14:7 Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not [in him] the lips of knowledge.

Ver. 7. Go from the presence of a foolish man.] If he be a proud fool, as Proverbs 14:6, a scorner and derider of good counsel, and one that knows not how to lisp out the least syllable of savoury language, break off society with such as soon as may be; for what good can be gotten by their company or conference? "Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" They infect the very air they breathe upon, and are therefore called λοιμοι, pests, (a) according to the Septuagint, [Psalms 1:1] their tongues have the very plague in them; "their breath as fire shall devour you." [Isaiah 33:11] Non potest vir ille sine convitiis quenquam a quo dissentit vel in levissimis, nominare, saith Dr Rivet concerning Bishop Montague; that man hath not the power to forbear railing at any one that dissents from him, though in never so small a matter. Is there any good to be gotten by such? Do not "their words eat as a gangrene." [2 Timothy 2:17]


Verse 8

Proverbs 14:8 The wisdom of the prudent [is] to understand his way: but the folly of fools [is] deceit.

Ver. 8. The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way.] His wisdom begins in the right knowledge of himself, and ends in the right knowledge of God, that he may "walk worthy of God in all well pleasing," worthy of the calling wherewith he is called, that high and "heavenly calling" [Hebrews 3:1] to the fruition of high and heavenly privileges, to an angelical and convincing conversation, such as may draw hearts or daunt them. We use to say of him that knows his place, and carries himself accordingly, such a man understands himself well enough. So here.

But the folly of fools is deceit.] Or, Is to understand deceit, to know the devil’s depths, to search his skull for carnal arguments that they may cum ratione insanire, be mad with show of reason, and deceive the hearts of the simple. "This their way is their folly; yet their posterity" - as wise as their foolsih fathers - "approve their sayings," abet their practices. [Psalms 49:13]


Verse 9

Proverbs 14:9 Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous [there is] favour.

Ver. 9. Fools make a mock of sin.] A sport or pastime of it. [Proverbs 10:23] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 10:23"} They dance with the devil all day, and yet think to sup with Christ. But what saith the heathen historian? Nae, illi falsi sunt qui diversissimas res expectant, ignaviae vohtptatem, et praemia virtutis. In good truth they are utterly out that take their swing in sin, and yet look for the reward of virtue. No, their sweet meat must have sour sauce. "God also will laugh at their destruction, and mock when their fear cometh." [Proverbs 1:26-27] And then "they all shall be damned that had pleasure in unrighteousness," [2 Thessalonians 2:12] yea, double damned, because they jeered when they should have feared. [2 Peter 2:13]

But among the righteous there is favour.] That, though they sin of infirmity, yet forasmuch as they are sensible and sorrowful for their failings, and see them to confession, God will never see them to their confusion. Homo agnoscit, Deus ignoscit; man repenteth, and God remitteth; yea, he "compasseth his returning people with favour as with a shield," [Psalms 5:12] he re-accepts them with all sweetness through Christ, "who is the propitiation for their sins." [1 John 2:2]


Verse 10

Proverbs 14:10 The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy.

Ver. 10. The heart knoweth his own bitterness] None can conceive the terrors and torments of a heart that lies under the sense of sin and fear of wrath. A little water in a leaden vessel is heavy. Some can bear in their grief better than others; but all that are under this affliction have their back burden. Job’s "stroke was heavier than his groaning," [Job 23:2] and yet his complaint was bitter too. Some holy men, as Mr Leaver, have desired to see their sin in the most ugly colours, and God hath heard them. But yet his hand was so heavy upon them that they went always mourning to their graves, and thought it fitter to leave it to God’s wisdom to mingle the portion of sorrow than to be their own choosers. (a)

And the stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy.] None but such as are of the "family of faith" [Galatians 6:10] can conceive the surpassing sweetness of spiritual joy. The cock on the dunghill knows not the worth of this jewel. It is joy "unspeakable"; [1 Peter 1:8] such as none feel but those that stir up sighs "unutterable." [Romans 8:26] It is joy "unspeakable, and full of glory," a hansel of heaven, a foretaste of eternal life. It is the peace that "passeth all understanding"; [Philippians 4:7] they that have it understand not the full of it, nor can relate the one-half of it. Paul said somewhat to the point, when he said, "I do over abound exceedingly (b) with joy," but words are too weak to utter it. Father Latimer said somewhat, when he said it was the ‘deserts of the feast of a good conscience.’ But sermo non valet exprimere, experimento opus est. (c) It is a thing fitter to be believed, than possible to be discoursed. Tell a man never so long what a sweet thing honey is, he can never believe you so well as if he himself tastes it. Those that never yet "tasted how good the Lord is," [Psalms 34:8] are far from intermeddling with the just man’s joy. ‘The world wonders,’ saith Mr Philpot, martyr, ‘how we can be so merry in such extreme misery; but our God is omnipotent, who turns misery into felicity. Believe me, there is no such joy in the world as the people of Christ have under the cross. I speak it by experience.’ (d) Another holy martyr, Richard Collier, after his condemnation sang a psalm; wherefore the priests and the officers railed at him, saying, He was out of his wits. (e)


Verse 11

Proverbs 14:11 The house of the wicked shall be overthrown: but the tabernacle of the upright shall flourish.

Ver. 11. The house of the wicked shall be overthrown.] As Phoca’s high walls were, because sin was at the bottom: "Brimstone also shall be scattered on his habitation"; [Job 18:15] as it befell Dioclesian, whose house was wholly consumed with fire from heaven; wherewith himself also was so terrified, that he died within a while after. (a)

But the tabernacle of the upright shall flourish.] The wicked have "houses," and are called the "inhabitants of the earth." [Revelation 12:12] The upright have "tabernacles," or tents that were transportative and taken down at pleasure; here they "have no continuing city," no mansion place; and yet what they have shall flourish: "Our bed is green, the beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters of fir." [Song of Solomon 1:16-17] See 2 Samuel 23:5.


Verse 12

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof [are] the ways of death.

Ver. 12. There is a way that seemeth right unto a man.] Sin comes clothed with a show of reason; [Exodus 1:10] and lust will so blear the understanding, that he shall think that there is great sense in sinning. "Adam was not deceived"; [1 Timothy 2:14] that is, he was not so much deceived by his judgment - though also by that too - as by his affection to his wife, which at length blinded his judgment. The heart first deceives us with colours; and when we are once a-doting after sin, then we join and deceive our hearts, [James 1:26] using fallacious and specious sophism, to make ourselves think that lawful today which we ourselves held unlawful yesterday, and that we are possessed of those graces whereto we are perfect strangers.

But the end thereof are the ways of death.] Via multiplex ad mortem. The very first step in this evil way was a step to hell; but the journey’s end, if men stop not, or step not back in time, is undoubted destruction. Some flatter themselves, as Micah. [ 17:13] They flee to "the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord": and think to take sanctuary and save themselves there from all danger, as the Jews fable that Og, king of Bashan, escaped in the flood by riding astride upon the ark without; wherein it falls out oft, as it did with the riflers of Semiramis’s tomb, who, where they expected to find the richest treasure, met with a deadly poison; or as it doth with him that, lying asleep upon a steep rock, and dreaming of great matters befallen him, starts suddenly for joy, and so breaks his neck at the bottom. As he that makes a bridge of his own shadow cannot but fall into the water, so neither can he escape the pit of hell who lays his own presumption in place of God’s promise, who casts himself upon the unknown mercies of God, &c.


Verse 13

Proverbs 14:13 Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth [is] heaviness.

Ver. 13. Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful.] Nulla est sincera voluptas. Labor est etiam ipsa voluptas. Of carnal pleasures a man may break his neck before his fast. "All this avails me nothing," said Haman. Omnia fui, et nihil profuit, said that emperor. "Vanity of vanity, all is vanity," said Solomon; and not vanity only, but "vexation of spirit." Nothing in themselves, and yet full of power and activity to inflict vengeance and vexation upon the spirit of a man; so that even in laughter the heart is sorrowful. Some kind of frothy and flashy mirth wicked men may have; such as may wet the mouth, but not warm the heart; smooth the brow, but not fill the breast. It is but ‘a cold armful,’ (a) as Lycophron saith of an evil wife. As they repent in the face, [Matthew 6:16] so they rejoice in the face, not in the heart. [2 Corinthians 5:12] Rident et ringuntur. They laugh and snare. There is a snare or a cord in the sin of the wicked - that is, to strangle their joy with; but the righteous sing and are merry; [Proverbs 29:6] others may revel, they only must rejoice. [Hosea 9:1]

And the end of that mirth is heaviness.] They dance to the timbrel and harp, but suddenly they turn into hell; [Job 21:12-13] and so their merry dance ends in a miserable downfall. "Woe be to you that laugh now." [Luke 6:25] Those merry Greeks, that are so afraid of sadness that they banish all seriousness, shall one day wring for it. Adonijah’s guests had soon enough of their good cheer and jollity; so had Belshazzar and his combibones optimi. Thou mad fool, what doest thou [Ecclesiastes 2:1-26] saith Solomon to the mirth monger, that holds it the only happiness to ‘laugh and be fat’; knowest thou not yet there will be bitterness in the end? Principium dulce est, sed finis amoris amarus. The candle of the wicked shall be put out in a vexing snuff. Their mirth - as comets - blazeth much, but ends in a pestilent vapour; as lightning, it soon vanisheth, leaveth a greater darkness behind it, and is attended with the renting and roaring thunder of God’s wrath.


Verse 14

Proverbs 14:14 The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man [shall be satisfied] from himself.

Ver. 14. The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways.] He hath made a match with mischief, he shall soon have enough of it; he hath sold himself to do wickedness, [Hebrews 10:38] and he shall be sure of his payment; he hath drawn back to perdition; he hath stolen from his colours, run away from his captain ( υποστειληται), he shall have martial law for it. God will serve such odious apostates as Theodoric, king of Goths, did a deacon, that, to ingratiate with this Arian prince, turned Arian: instead of preferring him, he cut off his head. Or as that Turk served the traitor that betrayed the Rhodes: his promised wife and portion were presented, but the Turk told him that he would not have a Christian to be his son-in-law, but he must be a Moslem - that is, a believing Turk, both within and without. And therefore he caused his baptized skin, as he called it, to be taken off, and him to be cast in a bed strawed with salt, that he might get a new skin, and so he should be his son-in-law. But the wicked wretch ended his life with shame and torment.

But a good man shall be satisfied from himself.] For he hath a spring within his own breast, he needs not shark abroad; he hath an autarchy, a self-sufficience. [1 Timothy 6:6] Hic sat lucis, Here is enough light, said Oecolampadius, clapping his hand on his breast, when sick, and asked whether the light did not offend him? Another, being likewise sick, and asked how he did; answered, ‘My body is weak, my mind is well.’ A third, (a) when the pangs of death were upon him, being asked by a very dear friend that took him by the hand, whether he felt not much pain; ‘Truly no,’ said he, ‘the greatest I find is your cold hand.’ These good men "knew within themselves that they had in heaven a better and a more enduring substance"; [Hebrews 10:34] within themselves they knew it - not in others, not in books, but in their own experience and apprehension, in the workings of their own hearts. Their knowledge was non in codicibus, sed in cordibus: They could feelingly say, that "in doing of God’s will" - not only for doing it, or after it was now done, but even while they were doing of it - "there was great reward." [Psalms 19:11] Righteousness is its own reward, and is never without a double joy to be its strength: Gaudium in re, gaudium in spe, gaudium de possessione, gaudium de promissione, gaudium de praesenti exhibitione, gaudium de futura expectatione: (b) Joy in hand, and in hope, in present possession, and in certain reversion.


Verse 15

Proverbs 14:15 The simple believeth every word: but the prudent [man] looketh well to his going.

Ver. 15. The simple believeth every word.] You may draw him any way with a wet finger, persuade him to anything, as Rehoboam, that old baby. Nηφε και μεμνησο απιστειν, was a very good rule of Epicharmus. Be not light of belief; try before you trust; look before you leap. Alioqui saliens antequam videas, casurus es antequam debeas, (a) Wisdom would, that as men should not be too censorious ("This man blasphemeth," said they of our Saviour), so neither too credulous, as the giddy headed Galatians were to their seducing doctors; - "I [Galatians 1:6] wonder that ye are so soon removed," &c. Let us leave to the Papists Ministrorum muta officia, populi caeca obsequia - their ministers’ dumb services, their people’s blind obediences; and ever count it a singular folly to take men’s bare authority in matters of faith, and not to "prove the spirits whether they are of God," [1 John 4:1] as those "noble" Bereans did, and are worthily renowned for it. [Acts 17:11]

But the prudent man looketh well to his goings.] He looketh not so much what others believe, or not believe, do or not do, as what he is bound to believe or do. He pins not his faith to another man’s sleeve; he frames not his pace by another man’s practice, but walks by line and by rule, treads gingerly, steps warily, lifts not up one foot till he finds sure footing for the other, as those [of] Psalms 35:6. This is to "walk exactly, accurately, (b) not fools, but as wise." [Ephesians 5:15]


Verse 16

Proverbs 14:16 A wise [man] feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident.

Ver. 16. A wise man feareth and departeth from evil.] He trembleth at the judgments while they hang in the threatenings, meets God with entreaties of peace, and so redeems his own sorrows. Solo auditu contremisco, saith Jerome, speaking of that terrible text, Ezekiel 16:42 : "I tremble at the very hearing of it." So Erasmus, repeating those words, "His blood will I require at thy hands"; [Ezekiel 3:18] these, saith he, are fulmina, non verba - not words, but thunderbolts. A good child, if but threatened only, will amend his fault; yea, if he but hear others threatened. Daniel was more troubled than Nebuchadnezzar was. [Daniel 4:19] Habakkuk, when in a vision he saw the judgments of God that were to come upon the Chaldeans, it made his very heart to ache and quake within him. [Proverbs 3:16]

But the fool rageth and is confident.] Some render it "rangeth and is confident," transit et confidit - so the Vulgate and the original will well enough bear it - he passeth on from sin to sin like a madman, and yet persuades himself that all shall do well. Such a desperate fool was Balaam, though the angel met him with a drawn sword, yet he would needs on; and what was the issue? He died by the sword of Israel, though he seemed a friend to Israel. Not to be warned is both a just presage, and desert, of ruin.


Verse 17

Proverbs 14:17 [He that is] soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated.

Ver. 17. He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly.] Alexander, in his hot blood, slew his dearest friend, whom he would have revived again with his heart blood.

Qui non moderabitur irae

Infectum velit esse dolor quod suaserit, et mens. ”

Rash anger differs from madness, saith Seneca, in nothing but in time only. See my "Common Place of Anger."

And a man of wicked devices is hated,] i.e., He that beareth a grudge intending revenge - as one that only wants, and therefore waits a fit time, as Absalom did for Amnon - this is a dangerous man, and deservedly detested of all. It is counted manhood - indeed it is doghood. The curs of Congo, they say, bite but never bark. Esau threatened Jacob. Tiberius lentus in meditando, ubi prorupisset, tristioribus dictis atrocia facta conungebat. The more he meditated revenge, the more did time and delay sharpen it; and the further off he threatened, the heavier the stroke fell; therefore he was generally hated as an odious miscreant.


Verse 18

Proverbs 14:18 The simple inherit folly: but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.

Ver. 18. The simple inherit folly.] Acceperunt per successionem seu haereditario iure, so one renders it; they are as wise as their forefathers, and they are resolved to be no wiser. Me ex ea opinione quam a maioribus accepi de cultu deorum, nullius unquam movebit oratio, said Cicero; I will never forsake that way of divine service that I have received from my forefathers, for any man’s pleasure, or by any man’s persuasion. The monarch of Morocco told the English ambassador for King John that he had recently read St Paul’s epistles, which he liked so well, that were he now to choose his religion he would, before any other, embrace Christianity. But everyone ought, saith he, to die in the religion received from his ancestors, and the leaving of the faith wherein he was born was the only thing that he disliked in that apostle. (a)

But the prudent are crowned with knowledge.] They know that dies diem docet: and therefore are not so wedded to their old principles, superstitions, and fopperies, but that they can, as right reason requires, relinquish and abjure them, glorifying the word, [Acts 13:48] and "receiving the truth in love," [2 Thessalonians 2:10] whereby it soon comes to pass, that they get "good repute and report of all men, as Demetrius had, yea, and of the truth itself," [3 John 1:12] which is the crown of all commendation, Haud velim Erasmi gloria aut nomine vehi, saith Luther: I care not to be praised as Erasmus is, &c.


Verse 19

Proverbs 14:19 The evil bow before the good; and the wicked at the gates of the righteous.

Ver. 19. The evil bow before the good.] Here they do so many times, as Joseph’s brethren before him in his greatness, as Saul before Samuel, Belshazzar before Daniel, the persecuting tyrants before Constantine the Great; (a) yea, one of them, viz., Maximinus Galerius, being visited with grievous sickness, not only proclaimed liberty to the poor persecuted Christians, but also commanded their churches to be re-edified, and public prayers to be made for his recovery (b) So Ezra 6:10, "Pray for the king’s life, and for his sons’," some of which had died in their minority; for the rest, therefore, prayer must be made by the Church. That place is well known, [Isaiah 49:23] "Kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their faces toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet." The prophet seems to allude to the manner of the Persians, who, when they were to speak to their king, did first kiss the pavement whereon he trod. (c) Howsoever, natural consciences cannot but do homage to the image of God, stamped upon the natures and practices of the righteous, as is aforenoted; and the worst cannot but think well of such, and honour them in their hearts. In the life to come these things shall have their full accomplishment; and at the last day, when the saints shall judge the world, and Christ shall have put all things under his feet, so that they shall have "power over the nations." [Revelation 2:26]


Verse 20

Proverbs 14:20 The poor is hated even of his own neighbour: but the rich [hath] many friends.

Ver. 20. The poor is hated,] i.e., Less loved, little respected, as Genesis 29:31, Malachi 1:5, Luke 14:26. The heathen could say, Aφιλον το δυστοχες - adversity finds few friends. Et cum fortuna statque caditque fides. Few will appear for suffering saints. This Job and David much complain of; but when a deer is shot, the rest of the herd push him out of their company, so here, Tempora si fuerint nubila, solus eris. The same Hebrew word that signifies winter, an emblem of poverty, signifies reproach. "This thy son"; [Luke 15:30] not this "my brother," because in poverty. The Samaritans would not once own the Jews when they were in a poor estate, but disavow them, as they did to Antiochus Epiphanes; (a) but when in prosperity, then they would curry favour with them, and call them their sweet cousins. When it was sometimes disputed among the Romans in the council, using to deify great men, whether Christ, having done many wonderful works, should be received into the number of the gods, it was resolved that he should not, Propter hoc, quod paupertatem predicarit et elegerit, quam mundus contemnit, because he preached poverty and chose poor men whom the world cares not for.

But the rich man hath many friends.] Such as they are, ollares amici - trencher flies, such as follow the scent, and, like Bohemian curs, will fawn upon a good suit. (b) As for faithful friends, divitibus ideo amicus deest, quia nihil deest, saith one; few such to be found such as, with Ittai the Gittite and Hushai the Archite, will stick close to a David when stripped of all. Josephus relates of the Jews that they were very careful how they received proselytes in Solomon’s time, because then the state of the Jews flourished.


Verse 21

Proverbs 14:21 He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy [is] he.

Ver. 21. He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth.] His poor neighbour. Where the hedge is low the beast will easily break over. None usually are so trampled on with the feet of pride and contempt, by the great bulls of Bashan, as the necessitous and afflicted. Hence "poor" and "afflicted" are set together; [Zephaniah 3:12] so are "to want" and "to be abased." [Philippians 4:11] This is a great sin, saith Solomon; it is to commit sin and to "be convinced of the law" as transgressors, saith St James. [Proverbs 3:9]

But he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.] His sins shall be remitted, his necessities relieved, and the blessings of God multiplied upon him, even a μυριομακαριστης. See my "Common Place of Alms."


Verse 22

Proverbs 14:22 Do they not err that devise evil? but mercy and truth [shall be] to them that devise good.

Ver. 22. Do they not err that devise evil?] Heb., That plough it and plot it, that dig it and delve it, that whet their wits and beat their brains about it - do not these err? Are they not heavenly wide, (a) utterly out? Shall they not miss their purpose, and meet with disappointment? Witness those Babel-builders, [Genesis 11:1-9] those kill-Christs, [Psalms 2:1-12] those state traitors, Sheba, Shebna, &c., various English traitors who drew their last thread in the triangle of Tyburn. Knute, the first Danique king, caused the false Edric’s head to be set on the highest part of the Tower of London, therein performing his promise of advancing him above any lord in the land. (b) Traitors always become odious, though the treason be commodious. Philip, Duke of Austria, paid the ambassadors of Charles IV, who had betrayed their trust, in counterfeit coin, whereof, when they complained, he answered, that false coin was good enough for false knaves. (c) James I, King of Scots, was murdered in Perth by Walter, Earl of Athol, in hope to attain the crown; but his hopes failed him. Crowned, indeed, he was, but with a crown of red-hot iron clapt upon his head, being one of the tortures wherewith he ended at once his wicked days and devices. (d)

But mercy and truth shall be to them that devise good.] Mercy and truth were the best that David could wish to his fast friend, Ittai. [2 Samuel 15:20] These two attributes of God shall cause that good devices shall not miscarry. His mercy moves him to promise, his truth binds him to perform. "For thy word’s sake, and according to thine own heart, hast thou done all these things." [2 Samuel 7:18; 2 Samuel 7:21] "According to thine own heart"; that is, of mere mercy, out of pure and unexcited love, thou didst give thy word and promise, and "for thy word’s sake" thou hast performed it.


Verse 23

Proverbs 14:23 In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips [tendeth] only to penury.

Ver. 23. In all labour there is profit.] In all honest labour, for there are those who "do wickedly with both hands earnestly"; and "what profit have such of all their labour?" [Ecclesiastes 1:3] Do they not take pains to go to hell? There are also that labour about ματαιοτεκνηματα, toilsome toys that pay not for the pains - that do magno conatu magnas nugas agere. Such a one was Paleottus, Archbishop of Bonony, who made a great book of the shadow of Christ’s body in a sindon; and it was commented upon by the professor there. This Aristotle calls ‘laborious loss of time.’ (a) The apostle calls upon men to "labour, working with their hands the thing that is good"; so shall "they have," not for their own uses only, but also "to give to him that needeth." [Ephesians 4:28]

But the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury.] Great talkers are do-littles, for the most part. Corniculas citius in Africa, quam res rationesque solidus in Turriani scriptis invenies, saith one; - Turrian was a very wordy man; ye cannot find matter, for words, in him; - λογους μεν Eρμοδωρος εμπορευεται. The Athenians fought against Philip with words and messages, saith one; but Rabshekah could tell Hezekiah that war was to be made - so is work to be done - not with words and the talk of the lips, but with counsel and strength. [Isaiah 36:5] And "why stand you looking upon one another? Get you down to Egypt," said Jacob to his sons. [Genesis 42:1]


Verse 24

Proverbs 14:24 The crown of the wise [is] their riches: [but] the foolishness of fools [is] folly.

Ver. 24. The crown of the wise is their riches.] An ornament, an encouragement in well doing, and an instrument of doing much good, if God give a heart thereto; for quid cervo ingentia cornua, cum desit animus? To what end is a treasure, if a man have lost the key that leads to it?

“Vel mihi da clavem, vel mihi tolle seram.”

But the foolishness of fools is folly.] That is, Of rich fools, such as was Pope Clemens V, of whom the historian saith, Papa hic ditior quam sapientior that he was more wealthy than wise. The crown of the wise is their riches; but yet give them to a fool, you put a sword into a madman’s hand; the folly of such fools will soon be foolishness. Why, was it not foolishness before they were rich? Yes, but now it is become egregious foolishness. Aφορητος εστι μαστιγιας ευτυχων, the earth cannot bear the insolence of such. Set a beggar on horseback, &c.


Verse 25

Proverbs 14:25 A true witness delivereth souls: but a deceitful [witness] speaketh lies.

Ver. 25. A true witness delivereth souls.] Or, Lives that lie at stake. He that helps the truth in such a necessity doth a worthy work. To walk about with slanders is to "shed blood." [Ezekiel 22:9] Way was made to that bloody French massacre by false reports cast abroad by the friar liars, that the Protestants, under pretence of religion, met by night that they might feed daintily, and then lie together promiscuously. He that hath a mind to hang his dog, saith the French proverb, will first give out that he is run mad. The devil was first a liar, and then a murderer from the beginning. [John 8:44]


Verse 26

Proverbs 14:26 In the fear of the LORD [is] strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.

Ver. 26. In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence.] The reverential fear of God is monimenturn, munimentum, ornamentum. The wise man had said, in Proverbs 14:24, "The crown of the wise are their riches," and in Proverbs 18:11, he will tell us that "the rich man’s wealth is his strong city." Now, lest any should hereby be brought to think of riches more highly than is meet, he gives us to know that wealth, severed from the fear of God, can neither adorn us nor secure us. Great is the confidence of a good conscience. "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us, and he will deliver us out of thine hand." [Daniel 3:17] Hezekiah pulled down the brazen serpent, for he "trusted in God." [2 Kings 18:5] At ego rem divinam facio, - But I am sacrificing, said Numa, when they told him the enemy was at hand. Non sic Deos coluimus, aut sic vivimus ut illi nos vincerent, said the Emperor Antoninus. We are bold to believe that God will deal better with us than so.

And his children have a place of refuge], i.e., God’s children run to his name and are safe. Or, The children of him who fears God. For God will bless those who fear him, "both small and great." [Psalms 115:13] If I can but once find the fear of God in those about me, said reverend Claviger, satis habeo, satisque mihi, meae uxori, fillis, et filiabus prospexi, (a) I shall have enough for myself, wife, and children; they will be all cared for.


Verse 27

Proverbs 14:27 The fear of the LORD [is] a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.

Ver. 27. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life.] So said to be, both for the constant faithfulness, as never failing, and for the gracious effects - viz., blessings of all sorts. (1). Temporal; [Proverbs 22:4] riches, honour, life. (2). Spiritual; [Malachi 4:2] such shall "grow up as the calves of the stall," fat and fair-liking. (3). Eternal; [Psalms 31:19] "O how great is thy goodness which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee"; "eye hath not seen," &c. [1 Corinthians 2:9] It shall be always "well with them." [Ecclesiastes 8:12] And though many afflictions, &c., yet he that feareth God "shall come out of them all." [Ecclesiastes 7:18]

To depart from the snares of death.] Satan, that mighty hunter, hath laid snares for us in all places. And the way of this world is like the vale of Siddim, slimy and slippery; full of slime pits and pitfails, snares and stumblingblocks, laid on purpose to maim us or mischief us. He that fears God comes off without hurt by remembering that saying - which, as short as it is, yet our memories are shorter - Cave, Deus videt; - Take heed; God seeth thee. A godly man had these verses written before him on a table in his study:

“Ne pecces, Deus ipse videt, tuus Angelus astat:

Accusat Satanas et lex, mens conscia culpae:

Mors incerta furit: cruciat te luridus Orcus:

Et manet aeternum tristi damnatio poena.”


Verse 28

Proverbs 14:28 In the multitude of people [is] the king’s honour: but in the want of people [is] the destruction of the prince.

Ver. 28. In the multitude of the people is the king’s honour.] For that is a sign of peace, plenty, prosperity, and just government, as in Solomon’s days, when "Israel and Judah were many, as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating, and drinking, and making merry." [1 Kings 4:20] And as in Augustus’s days, when Christ, the Prince of Peace, was born into the world, cuncta atque continua totius generis humani aut pax fuit, aut pactio. (a) Ferdinand III, King of Spain, reigned full thirty-five years, in all which time, nec fames nec pestis fuit in regno suo, saith Lopez, there was neither famine nor pestilence throughout that kingdom. (b) What incredible waste of men hath war lately made in Germany, that stage of war; in Ireland; and here in this kingdom, besides what formerly! In the civil dissensions between the houses of York and Lancaster, were slain eighty princes of the blood royal, and twice as many natives of England as were lost in the two conquests of France. The dissensions between England and Scotland consumed more Christian blood, wrought more spoil and destruction to both kingdoms, and continued longer, than ever quarrel we read of did between any two people of the world. (c) "Be wise now therefore, O ye kings," &c. Tu vero, Herodes sanguinolente, time, as Beza covertly warned Charles IX, author of the French massacre. (d) Many parts of Turkey lie unpeopled, most of the poor being enforced with victuals and other necessaries to follow their great armies in their long expeditions; of whom scarce one of ten ever return home again, there by the way perishing if not by the enemy’s sword, yet by want of victuals, intemperateness of the air, or immoderate painstaking. (e) Hence the proverb, Wherever the Great Turk sets his foot, there grass grows not any more.


Verse 29

Proverbs 14:29 [He that is] slow to wrath [is] of great understanding: but [he that is] hasty of spirit exalteth folly.

Ver. 29. He that is slow to anger is of great understanding.] "The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable," tractable. Thunder, hail, tempest, neither trouble nor hurt celestial bodies. Anger may rush into a wise man’s bosom, not rest there; [Ecclesiastes 7:9] it dwells only where it domineers, and that is only where a fool is master of the family. A wise man either receives it not or soon rids it. Be slow to wrath, is a lesson that God hath engraven, as one wittily observeth in our very nature. For the last letter that any child ordinarily speaketh is R, and that is the radical letter of all words of strife and wrath in almost all languages? (a)

But he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.] He sets it up upon a pole, as it were; he makes an Oh yes, and proclaims his own folly by his ireful looks, words, gestures, actions, as that furious friar Feuardensius doth in his book called Theomachia Calvinistica, where he took up his pen with as much passion and wrath as any soldier takes up his sword. Such another hasty fool was friar Alphonsus, the Spaniard, who, reasoning with Mr Bradford, martyr, was in a wonderful rage chafing with om and cho; so that if Bradford had been anything hot, one house could not have held them. (b)


Verse 30

Proverbs 14:30 A sound heart [is] the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.

Ver. 30. A sound heart is the life of the flesh.] A heart well freed from passions and perturbations holds out long, and enjoys good health; neither causeth it molestation of mind or want of welfare to others. It is the life of fleshes (in the plural); (a) not only its own, but other men’s bodies are the better, at least not the worse, for it; whereas the envious and angry man rangeth and rageth; and like a mad dog biting all he meets, sets them, as much as in him lies, all a-madding, and undoes them.

But envy is the rottenness of the bones.] A corroding and corrupting disease it is, like that which the physicians call Corruptio totius substantiae, it dries up the marrow; and because it cannot come at another man’s heart, this hell-hag feeds upon its own, tormenting the poor carcase without and within. It is the moth of the soul, and the worm, as the Hebrew word signifies, of the bones, those stronger parts of the body. It is the same to the whole man that rust is to iron, as Antisthenes affirmeth; it devoureth itself first, as the worm doth the nut it grows in. Socrates called it serram animae, the soul’s saw; and wished that envious men had more ears and eyes than others, that they might have the more torment by beholding and hearing of other men’s happinesses; for invidia simul peccat et plectitur, expedita iustitia. Like the viper, it is born by eating through the dam’s belly; like the bee, it loseth its sting and life together; like the little fly, to put out the candle, it burns itself; like the serpent Porphyrius, it drinks the most part of its own venom; like the viper that leaped upon St Paul’s hand to hurt him, but perished in the fire; or as the snake in the fable, that licked off her own tongue; as envying teeth to the file in the forge. In fine, "Envy slayeth the silly soul"; [Job 5:2] as it did that fellow in Pausanias, who, envying the glory of Theagenes, a famous wrestler, whipped his statue - set up in honour of him after his death - every night so long, till at length it fell upon him, and killed him. (b)


Verse 31

Proverbs 14:31 He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.

Ver. 31. He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker.] Since it is he that "maketh poor, and that maketh rich, and thereby killeth and maketh alive." [1 Samuel 2:6-7] Rich men only seem to be alive. Hence David, sending his servants to that Pamphagus, that rich curmudgeon, Nabal, speaketh on this sort, "Thus shall ye say to him that liveth" [1 Samuel 25:6] - there is no more in the original - as if rich men only were alive. Poor people are "free among the dead" [Psalms 88:5] - free of that company, as David was, when they are crushed and oppressed, especially by rich cormorants and cannibals. [Psalms 14:4] A poor man’s livelihood is his life, [Luke 8:43] for a poor man in his house is like a snail in his shell - crush that, and you kill him. This reflects very much upon God, the poor man’s king, as James IV of Scotland was called, who will not suffer it to pass unpunished, "for he is gracious." As unskilful hunters may shoot at a beast, but kill a man, so do these oppressors hit God, the poor man’s maker.

But he honoureth him that hath mercy on the poor.] Quibus verbis nihil gravius, nihil efficaciu dici potuit. God takes it for an honour; how should this prevail with us! "Honour the Lord with thy substance," [Proverbs 3:9] and take it for a singular honour that he will vouchsafe to be thus honoured by thee, as David did. How exceedingly shall such be honoured in that great Panegyris (a) at the last day, when the Judge shall say, "Come, ye blessed of my Father: I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat," &c. [Matthew 25:34-35]


Verse 32

Proverbs 14:32 The wicked is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death.

Ver. 32. The wicked is driven away in his wickedness.] Being arrested by death, as a cruel serjeant, in the devil’s name, he is hurried away, and hurled into hell, as dying in his sins, and killed by death. [Revelation 2:23] And oh, what a dreadful shriek gives the guilty soul then to see itself launching into an infinite ocean of scalding lead, and must swim naked in it for ever!

But the righteous hath hope in his death.] Death to the righteous, as the valley of Achor, is a door of hope to give entrance into paradise; to the wicked it is a trap door to hell. Improbi dum spirant, sperant: iustus etiam cum expirat, sperat. Aelian tells how he once heard a dying swan sing most sweetly and melodiously, (a) which in her lifetime hath no such pleasant note. As, on the other side, syrens are said to sing curiously while they live, but to roar horribly when they die. Such is the case of the godly and the wicked when they come to die.


Verse 33

Proverbs 14:33 Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding: but [that which is] in the midst of fools is made known.

Ver. 33. Wisdom resteth in the heart of him, &c.] He sets not his good parts and practices a-sunning, as vain glorious fools used to do, that they may be praised and applauded. As Jerome calls Crates the philosopher, we may call the whole nation of them so, Gloriae animal, popularis aurae vile mancipium, (a) a base hunter after praise of men. The truly wise concealeth himself till he seeth a fit time, and may be compared to the red rose, which though outwardly not so fragrant, is inwardly far more cordial than the damask, being more thrifty of its sweetness, and reserving it in itself. Or to the violet, which grows low, hangs the head downward, and hides itself with its own leaves; whereas the marigold, of nothing so good a smell, opens and shuts with the sun; which, when it is set, it hangs down the head, as forlorn and desperate. So that which is in the midst of fools is made known. Jehonadab must needs see what zeal Jehu hath for the Lord of hosts; his piety is shored up by popularity, &c.


Verse 34

Proverbs 14:34 Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin [is] a reproach to any people.

Ver. 34. Righteousness exalteth a nation.] True religion and the power of godliness is the beauty and bulwark of a state; [Deuteronomy 28:13] so are good laws, enacted and executed. This made "the faithful city" [Isaiah 1:21] to be the princess of provinces; [Lamentations 1:1] that land a "land of desire, a heritage of glory"; [Jeremiah 3:19] even "the glory of all nations." [Ezekiel 20:6] Josephus calls tile commonwealth Yεοκρατειαν; and Prosper’s conceit is, that Iudaei Judah, were so called because they received ius Dei. law of God, It was said of old, Angli quasi Angeli, and Anglia regnum Dei. England was called the kingdom of God, and Albion quasi Olbion, a happy country, the paradise of pleasure and garden of God. (a) Now the Lord is with us while we are with him, &c.; but if we cast off the yoke of his obedience, as Capernaum, though lifted up to heaven, we shall be brought down to hell. Sins are the snuffs that dim our candlestick, and threaten the removal of it; the leaven that defiles our passovers, and urges God to pass away and depart from us; the reproach that will render us a proverb and a byword, [Deuteronomy 28:37] an astonishment and a hissing, [Jeremiah 25:9] like Sodom and her sisters, a reproach and a taunt; [Ezekiel 5:15] which to prevent, Currat poenitentia, ne praecurrat sententia. {b} Mittamus preces et lachrymas cordis legatos. (c) Let us break off our sins, and cry mightily to God; for otherwise a dismal change, a sad removal of our candlestick, may be as certainly foreseen and foretold as if visions and letters were sent us from heaven, as once to those seven churches of Asia. [Revelation 2:1-29; Revelation 3:1-22]


Verse 35

Proverbs 14:35 The king’s favour [is] toward a wise servant: but his wrath is [against] him that causeth shame.

Ver. 35. The king’s favour is toward a wise servant.] As was Pharaoh’s toward Joseph, Solomon’s toward Jeroboam, Darius’s toward Daniel, Henry VIII’s toward Cromwell, whom, for his wisdom and faithfulness, he raised from a mean man (son to a blacksmith), to be first master of his jewel house, then baron of Oakham in Rutlandshire, then Knight of the Garter, Earl of Essex, lord great chamberlain; and lastly, ordained him his vicar general. (a) And if kings do thus, what will not the King of kings do for every faithful and wise servant of his, whom he hath made "ruler over his household"; [Matthew 24:45] "Verily, I say unto you, that he shall make him ruler over all his goods, [Matthew 24:47] yea, partaker of his master’s joy." [Matthew 25:21; Matthew 25:23]

But his wrath is against him that causeth shame.] Such as was Jeroboam at length, Haman, Shebna, Ziba, Gehazi, Ahithophel, Judas, &c. It fares with many princes, as it doth with the creature called millepede, which the more feet it hath, the slower it goeth. Corrupt servants hinder the course of justice, that it cannot run down as a torrent. This reflects upon their lords, and at length fails heavily upon themselves.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/proverbs-14.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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