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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Proverbs 21

 

 

Verse 1

Proverbs 21:1 The king’s heart [is] in the hand of the LORD, [as] the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.

Ver. 1. The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord.] Be kings never so absolute and unaccountable to any, yet are they ruled and overruled by him "that is higher than the highest,." [Ecclesiastes 5:8] God’s heart is not in the king’s hand, as that foolish prince in Mexico pretends, when at his coronation he swears that it shall not rain unseasonably, neither shall there be famine or pestilence during his reign in his dominions; but "the king’s heart," that is, his will, desires, devices, resolutions, are God’s to dispose of. He turneth them this way or that way with as much ease as the ploughman doth the water course with his paddle, or the gardener with his hand. Thus he turned the heart of Pharaoh to Joseph; of Saul to David; of Nebuchadnezzar to Jeremiah; of Darius to Daniel; of Cyrus, and afterwards of Alexander the Great, to the Jews; of some of the Roman persecutors to the primitive Christians; and of Charles V, who ruled over twenty-eight flourishing kingdoms, to the late reformers, Melanchthon, Pomeran, and other famous men of God, whom, when he had in his power, after he had conquered the Protestant princes, he not only determined not anything extremely against them, but also, entreating them gently, he sent them away, not so much as once forbidding them to publish openly the doctrine that they professed: albeit, all Christendom had not a more prudent prince than he was, saith Mr Foxe, (a) nor the Church of Christ almost a a sorer enemy.


Verse 2

Proverbs 21:2 Every way of a man [is] right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.

Ver. 2. Every way of a man is right in his own eyes.] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 16:2"} Such is our sinful self-love, that, Suffenus-like, we easily admire that little nothing of any good that is in us; we so clasp and hug the barn of our own brain, with the ape, that we strangle it; we set up a counter for a thousand pounds, and boast of those graces whereunto we are perfect strangers. We turn the perspective telescope, and gladly see ourselves larger, others smaller than they are: we flatter our own souls as Micah did his. [ 17:13] Wherein it often happens as it did with the riflers of Semiramis’ tomb, who, where they expected to find the richest treasure, met with a deadly poison. Seem we never so just, because first in our own cause, God - as Solomon saith of a man’s neighhour - comes and searches us, and then things appear otherwise. [Luke 16:15]


Verse 3

Proverbs 21:3 To do justice and judgment [is] more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.

Ver. 3. Is more acceptable to the Lord.] Qui non vult ex rapina holocaustum, as heathens could see and say by the light of nature. The Jews thought to expiate their miscarriages toward men, and to set off with God by their ceremonies and sacrifices. [Isaiah 1:11-15 Jeremiah 7:21-26 Micah 6:6-8] Some heathens also, as that Roman emperor, could say, Non sic deos coluimus ut ille nos vinceret, We have not been at so much charge with the gods that they should give us up into the enemy’s hands. But the Scripture gave the Jews to understand that "to obey was better than sacrifice," that God "would have mercy and not sacrifice," and that for a man to "love God above all, and his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burntofferings and sacrifices." [Mark 12:33] The heathens also were told as much by their sages, as Plato in his book intituled περι προσευχης, where Socrates, reprehending the gilt horned bulls of the Greeks, and the sumptuous sacrifices of the Trojans at length infers - και γαρ αν δεινον εη, &c. It were a grievous thing if the gods should more respect men’s offerings and sacrifices than the holiness of their hearts, and the righteousness of their lives, &c. Aristotle in his Rhetorics, ‘ Oυκ εικος Yεον χαιρεινταις δαπαναις, &c., saith he. It is not likely that God takes pleasure in the costliness of sacrifices, but rather in the good conversation of the sacrificers.


Verse 4

Proverbs 21:4 An high look, and a proud heart, [and] the plowing of the wicked, [is] sin.

Ver. 4. An high look and proud heart.] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 6:17"}

And the ploughing of the wicked is sin.] As they plot and plough mischief - being the devil’s hinds and drudges - so all their actions, natural, moral, spiritual, are turned into sin; whether they plough, or play, or pray, or eat, or sleep, "to the impure and unbelieving, all things are impure." [Titus 1:15] Their proud or big swollen heart is full of filthy corrupt matter, that oozeth out still and offendeth the eyes of God’s glory. Everything they do is as an evil vapour reeking from that loathsome dunghill, worse than those that came up from the five cities of the plain. Pride is like copperas, which will turn wine or milk into ink; - or leaven, which turns a very passover into pollution; - or as the sanies pus of a plague sore, which will render the richest robe infectious.


Verse 5

Proverbs 21:5 The thoughts of the diligent [tend] only to plenteousness; but of every one [that is] hasty only to want.

Ver. 5. The thoughts of the diligent tend only, &c.] The word rendered "diligent" signifies one that is sedulous and solicitous in his business; that weighs circumstances and waits opportunities; that "sits down first and counts his costs"; [Luke 14:28] that considers seriously, and then executes speedily. (a) Such a one was Abraham’s servant, [Genesis 24:1-9] Joseph, Boaz, Daniel. And how should such a man choose but thrive? {See Trapp on "Proverbs 10:4"} A sufficiency he is sure of, though not of a superfluity.

But of every one that is hasty.] And headlong; that, resolving to be rich, graspeth greedily all he can come at - accounting all good fish that comes to hand, and not sticking at any injustice or cruelty that may make for his advantage. The beggar will catch this man ere long; - the usurer will get him into his clutches, and leave him never a feather to fly with. There is a curse upon such precipitate practices, though men be never so industrious, as in Jeboiakim, [Jeremiah 22:24-30] and Saul. [1 Samuel 14:24-30] Those that, making more haste than good speed to be rich, reach at things too high for them - which David would not do [Psalms 131:1] - may be likened to the panther, which loves the dung of man so much, as if it be hanged a height from it, it will skip and leap up, and never leave till it have burst itself in pieces to get it.


Verse 6

Proverbs 21:6 The getting of treasures by a lying tongue [is] a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death.

Ver. 6. The getting of treasures by a lying tongue.] As do seducers, sycophants, flatterers, corrupt judges, that say with shame, "Give ye"; mercenary pleaders, that sell both their tongues and silence, and help their clients’ causes, as the wolf did the sheep of his cough, by sucking his blood; witnesses of the post that can lend an oath, as Jezebel’s hired rake hells did, and will not stick to swear (if they may be well paid for it) that their friend or foe was at Rome and at Interamna both at once; false chapmen, that say the best of their worst commodities, and cheat the unwary buyer. These, and the like, though for a while they may thrive and ruffle, yet in the end they prosper not, but perish with their wealth, as the toad doth with his mouth full of earth. God blows upon their cursed hoards of evil gotten goods, scattering them as chaff before the wind. Destruction also dogs them at the heels, both temporal and eternal. This they are said to seek, scil., eventually, though not intentionally. They seek it, because they not only walk in the way to it, but run and flee with post haste, as if they were afraid that they should come too late, or that hell should be full before they got there. Thus Balaam’s ass never carries him fast enough after the wages of wickedness. Set but a wedge of gold before Achan, and Joshua, that could stop the sun in his course, cannot stay him from the fingering of it. Judas, in selling his Master, what he doth doth "quickly." But with what issue? What got Balaam but a sword in his ribs? Achan, but the stones about his ears? Judas, but the halter about his neck? besides a worse thing in another world. Thus many a wretched worldling spins a fair thread to strangle himself both temporally and eternally. By covetousness they not only kill others, [Proverbs 1:19] but desperately "drown themselves in perdition and destruction." [1 Timothy 6:9] Fuge ergo, dives, eiusmodi exitum - as St Ambrose concludes the stroy of Ahab’s and Jezebel’s fearful end - sed fugies eiusmondi exitum si fugeris huiusmodi flagitium, - Flee, O rich miser, such an end. Such an end you shall avoid, if you carefully flee from such sinful courses.


Verse 7

Proverbs 21:7 The robbery of the wicked shall destroy them; because they refuse to do judgment.

Ver. 7. The robbery of the wicked shall destroy them.] Heb., Shall saw them: that is, shall bring upon them exquisite and extreme torments, such as the prophet Isaiah, and those martyrs [Hebrews 11:37] were put unto unjustly; such as Agag suffered justly, and those barbarous Ammonites. [2 Samuel 12:31] Some render it dissecabit eos shall cut them in twain, as that evil servant, [Luke 12:46] and those blasphemers of Daniel’s God. [Daniel 3:29] Others render it, Shall abide upon them, or, Dwell with them. Their illgotten goods vanish, but their punishment remains. Their stolen venison is soon eaten up, but the shot is not yet paid; there is a sad reckoning behind. God will rake out of their bellies those tit bits - those murdering morsels. Besides that, for their last dish is served up astonishment and fearful expectation of just revenge. The Hebrew word here translated "destroy" signifies also to terrify and fear. They shall be a Magormissabib to themselves, as Pashur was, [Jeremiah 20:3-4] running from chamber to chamber, to hide from the hand of justice - as that notable thief Bulas in the days of Severus the emperor (a) - but they shall not escape; their sin will find them out. God will pour upon them, and not spare, whether they be private thieves, or those public robbers, qui in auto et purpura visuntur, (b) as Cato once said, that are clad with purple, and have gold chains about their necks; corrupt judges, who judge for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him. Such were Empson and Dudley in their generation. Such was Judge Belknap in Richard II’s days, who, being about to subscribe the articles against proceedings of parliament, said there wanted but a hurdle, a horse, and a halter to carry him where he might suffer for assenting to them. (c) And that of these public thieves Solomon chiefly speaks here we may well think by the following clause, shewing the cause of their sore and sharp punishment, because they refuse to do judgment.


Verse 8

Proverbs 21:8 The way of man [is] froward and strange: but [as for] the pure, his work [is] right.

Ver. 8. The way of man is froward and strange.] And therefore strange, because froward, various, and voluble, so that you know not where to have him, be is so unconstant, nor what to make of him, he is so uncertain and unsettled; "double minded," [James 1:8] double tongued; [1 Timothy 3:8] versutulus et versatilis -

Qui tantum constans in levitate sua.

Folieta Galeazo reports of Sforza, Duke of Milan, that he was a very monster, made up and compact of virtue and vice. Such of old were Alcibiades, and likewise Julian, the apostate, of whom Marcellinus saith, that by his vicious errors, obnubilabat gloriae multiplices cursus, he stained his many praiseworthy parts and practices. Galba, and our Richard III are said to have been bad men - good princes. And of King Henry VIII saith Mr Camden, Fuerunt quidem in eo rege magnae virtutes, nec minora vitia, confuso quodam temperamento mixtae - that is, there was a strange mixture of great virtues, and no less vices found in this king.

But as for the pure, his work is right.] For what reason? He works by rule, and therefore all his actions are uniform. He is also one and the same in all estates of life; as gold is purged in the fire, shines in the water. "Did I use lightness?" saith St Paul, "or is there with me yea yea, and nay nay?" No; "But as God is true, so our word toward you was not yea and nay?" [2 Corinthians 1:17-18] I did not say and unsay, do and undo, &c.


Verse 9

Proverbs 21:9 [It is] better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.

Ver. 9. It is better to dwell in a corner of the house top.] Their house tops were made flat by order of the law. The sense is, then, A man had better abide abroad, sub dio, under the sun exposed to wind and weather, yea, to crowd into a corner, and to live in a little ease, than to cohabit in a convenient house with a contentious woman, that is ever brawling and brangling, that turns coniugium into coniurgium by inserting the dogs’ letter (r), and leading her husband a dog’s life. Such a one was Zillah, Peninnah, Xantippe, the wife of Phoroneus the lawgiver, who upon his deathbed told his brother he had been a man happy if he had never married. (a) Aristotle (b) affirms, that he that hath miscarried in a wife, hath lost more than half the happiness of his life. Rubius Celer and Albutius Tertius were held happy among the Romans, because the former had lived with a wife three and forty years and eight months, the latter five and twenty years, sine querela, without quarrelling or contending. And this they gave order should be engraven upon their gravestones. {See Trapp on "Proverbs 19:13"}


Verse 10

Proverbs 21:10 The soul of the wicked desireth evil: his neighbour findeth no favour in his eyes.

Ver. 10. The soul of the wicked desireth evil.] Sinful self-love, the chokeweed of all true love, prompteth the wicked man to envy the good, and wish the evil of all but himself. Hard hearted he is and inhuman, unless it be in a qualm of kindness (as Saul to David, the Egyptians to the Israelites), or merely in dissimulation, as John O’Neale, father to the Earl of Tyrone, that rebel (1598), inscribed himself in all places: I am great John O’Neale, friend to the Queen of England, and foe to all the world. (a) Eμου θανοντος γαια μιχθετω πυρι, said one wicked emperor; Eμου δε ζωυτος, said another, striving to outvie him: When I die, let the world be confounded. Nay, while I live let it be so, said the other monster. (b)

His neighbour finds no favour in his eyes.] Whether he sink or swim, it is no part of his care. What cares that churl Nabal though worthy David die at his door, so long as himself sits warm within, feeding on the fat and drinking of the sweet? The priests and the Levites saw the wounded man that lay half dead, and lent him no help. It was well they fell not upon him and despatched him, as dogs fall upon a man that is down; or, as when a deer is shot, the rest of the herd push him out of their company. Such cruel beasts David complains of; [Psalms 69:26] and such fierce savages St Paul foretells shall be in these last and worst days. Hard hearts shall make hard times. [2 Timothy 3:3]


Verse 11

Proverbs 21:11 When the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise: and when the wise is instructed, he receiveth knowledge.

Ver. 11. When the scorner is punished, &c.] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 19:25"}

And when the wise is instructed.] Or, When he accurately considers the wise, and observes both their integrity and their prosperity, by God’s blessing thereupon (for the word imports both), he resolves to play the wise man.


Verse 12

Proverbs 21:12 The righteous [man] wisely considereth the house of the wicked: [but God] overthroweth the wicked for [their] wickedness.

Ver. 12. The righteous man wisely considereth, &c.] He foreseeth its fearful fall, and is not offended at their present prosperity; for God, he knows, will shortly overturn it. This consideration cures him of the fret, as it did David [Psalms 37:1-2] It doth also instruct him in many points of heavenly wisdom, as it did the Church. [Isaiah 26:11 1 Corinthians 10:11] The destruction of others should be an instruction to us, that we may wash our feet in the blood of the wicked. [Psalms 52:6]


Verse 13

Proverbs 21:13 Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.

Ver. 13. Whoso stoppeth his ear at the cry, &c.] This was fulfilled in Pharaoh; Haman; the rich glutton; Hatto, archbishop of Mentz; Mauricius, the emperor, and many others, who might have better provided for their own comfort in sickness, and other exigencies, had they been more pitiful to poor people. Whereas now, when they shall lie tossing and tumbling upon their sick beds, roaring as bulls, and "tabering upon their breasts," [Nahum 2:7] God will not hear them; men will say, It is good enough for them. All hearts, by a divine hand, will be strangely set off from the merciless, as it befell Sejanus.


Verse 14

Proverbs 21:14 A gift in secret pacifieth anger: and a reward in the bosom strong wrath.

Ver. 14. A gift in secret pacifieth anger.] That is, say some, Alms rightly performed [Matthew 6:1] pacifieth God’s displeasure - compare Daniel 4:27; and the Jews at this day write this sentence of Solomon (in an abbreviation) upon their alms box. (a) This sense suits well with the previous verse; but I conceive the wise man’s drift here is to show how prevalent gifts are, if closely conveyed especially - which takes away the shame of open receiving - and what a pave they have to an amicable reconciliation. Thus Jacob pacified Esau; Abigail, David; Hezekiah, the Assyrian that came up against him. [2 Kings 18:24-25] Howbeit this doth not always do the deed. Our chronicler tells us that the Lady de Bruse had, by her virulent and railing tongue, more exasperated the fury of King John, whom she reviled as a tyrant and a murderer of her husband, than could be pacified by her strange present - viz., four hundred kine and one bull, all milk-white, except only the ears, which were red - sent unto the queen. (b) {See Trapp on "Proverbs 17:8"}


Verse 15

Proverbs 21:15 [It is] joy to the just to do judgment: but destruction [shall be] to the workers of iniquity.

Ver. 15. It is joy to the just to do judgment.] They love it dearly, and therefore cannot but rejoice in it exceedingly: "I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil," [Psalms 119:162] wherein the pleasure is usually as much as the profit. Besides, as every flower hath its sweet savour, so every good duty carries meat in the mouth - comfort in the performance. Hence the saints’ alacrity in God’s service, so far as they are spiritual. "I delight in the law of God, after the inward man," saith St Paul, [Romans 7:22] who yet but a little before complained of a clog.

But destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.] Wicked men are great workmen; they put themselves to no small pains in "catering for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof"; yea, and this they do with singular delight, as the opposition implies; they "weary themselves to commit iniquity," [Jeremiah 9:5] and yet they give not over, but lie grinding day and night in the mill of some or other base lust. Now what can come of this, better than utter destruction? which indeed is the just hire of the least sin, and will befall the workers of iniquity, as sure as the coat is on their back or the heart in their body.


Verse 16

Proverbs 21:16 The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead.

Ver. 16. The man that wandereth out of the way.] Let him wander while he will that deviateth from the truth according to godliness - he cannot possibly wander so far as to miss hell. God hath sworn in his wrath that no such vagrants shall enter into his rest; [Psalms 95:8-11] nay, "This shall they have of my hand, they shall lie down in sorrow," [Isaiah 50:11] they shall rest with Rephaims - if at least they can rest in that restless resting place of hell fire, in that congregation house of giants of Gehenna, where is punishment without pity, misery without mercy, sorrow without succour (help), crying without comfort, mischief without measure, torments without end and past imagination. [Proverbs 2:18] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 2:18"}


Verse 17

Proverbs 21:17 He that loveth pleasure [shall be] a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich.

Ver. 17. He that loveth pleasure, &c.] Luxury is attended by beggary. Pleasure may be had, but not loved. Isaac loved venison a little better haply than he should; Esau loved hunting, hence he grew profane, and though not a beggar, yet worse. The prodigal in the gospel "spent his substance with riotous living"; [Luke 15:13] so did Apicius the Roman, who, hearing that there were seven hundred crowns only remaining of a vast estate that his father had left him, feared want, and hanged himself. (a) Marcus Livius, another goods waster, boasted when he died that he had left nothing for his heir, praeter coelum et caenum, more than air and mire. (b) Roger Ascham, schoolmaster to Queen Elizabeth, and her secretary for the Latin tongue, being too much addicted to dicing and cock fighting, lived and died a poor man. (c)


Verse 18

Proverbs 21:18 The wicked [shall be] a ransom for the righteous, and the transgressor for the upright.

Ver. 18. The wicked shall be a ransom.] Heb., Copher, a cover, or an expiation; as Achan was for Israel, and as those condemned persons among the heathens, that in time of pestilence or contagious infection were offered up by way of public expiation, with these words, περιψημα ημων γενου; Be thou a reconciliation for us. (a) To this custom St Paul seems to allude. [1 Corinthians 4:13] Thus, when Saul’s sons were hanged, God’s wrath was appeased; [2 Samuel 21:1-9] and when guilty Jonah was cast into the sea, all was calm. Thus God gave Egypt for Israel’s ransom; yea, Sheba and Ethiopia. [Isaiah 43:3] And although he may seem sometimes to "sell his people for nought, and not to increase his wealth by their price," [Psalms 44:12] yet when it comes to a critical point, "I will give men for thee, and people for thy price." [Isaiah 43:4] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 11:8"}


Verse 19

Proverbs 21:19 [It is] better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.

Ver. 19. It is better to dwell in the wilderness.] Among ravenous beasts and venomous serpents, in greatest danger, and want of all necessary accommodation. This is so much worse than the housetop, as an angry and vexatious woman - which, like a mad dog, bites all about her, and makes them as mad as herself - is worse than her that is not so much angry as unquiet, brawling (as dogs bark sometimes in the night) of custom or fancy, and not provoked by any. {See Trapp on "Proverbs 21:9"}


Verse 20

Proverbs 21:20 [There is] treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.

Ver. 20. There is a treasure to be desired.] He had said before, He that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich. Here he shows, that though these things may not be loved or lavished, yet they may and must be had and heaped up in a way of good husbandry for necessity, yea, for honest affluence; that we may not only live, but live comfortably; that we may not only have prisoner’s pittance, so much as will keep us alive, but that we may have plenty of things desirable, both for profit, as treasure, and for delight, as oil. And these things must not be foolishly wasted, as they are usually by unthrifts, lest that make the wife that wants angry and unquiet, as in the former verse.


Verse 21

Proverbs 21:21 He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness, and honour.

Ver. 21. He that followeth after righteousness.] Though, for such a measure of it as he desires, he cannot overtake or compass it. If he be but doing at it, Si faciat praecepta, etiamsi non perficiat, if he "think upon God’s commandments to do them." [Psalms 103:18] If, though he cannot open the door, yet he is lifting at the latch, he shall be accepted, yea, rewarded. "He that follows after righteousness and mercy, "as an apprentice follows his trade, though he be not his craftsmaster, shall "surely find righteousness," with life and honour to boot. And is not that a good thing - a treasure to be desired?


Verse 22

Proverbs 21:22 A wise [man] scaleth the city of the mighty, and casteth down the strength of the confidence thereof.

Ver. 22. A wise man scaleth the city of the miyhty.] Wisdom is that το παγχρεστον, which is profitable for all things; of singular and sovereign use, as in domestic and politic, so in military affairs and businesses. Here prudence is made out to be better than puissance, and one wise man to be too hard for many mighty, though got into the strongest garrisons. In war wisdom is better than strength, saith Solomon more than once. [Ecclesiastes 9:16; Ecclesiastes 7:19] How did Archimedes hold out Syracuse against the Roman general by his singular skill and industry! And how many strong cities have been scaled and surprised by warlike wiles and stratagems! as Babylon by Cyrus first, and afterwards by Zopyrus, Jerusalem by Pompey, taking the opportunity of the seventh day, Sabbath, wherein he knew the superstitious Jews would not stir to defend themselves, and many others that might out of histories be instanced. (a)


Verse 23

Proverbs 21:23 Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.

Ver. 23. Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue.] As he that keepeth his doors fast locked, preserveth himself from danger; {See Trapp on "Proverbs 13:3"} The large and loose use of the tongue brings a man oft to divers straits and miseries.


Verse 24

Proverbs 21:24 Proud [and] haughty scorner [is] his name, who dealeth in proud wrath.

Ver. 24. Proud and haughty scorner is his name.] An ill name he gets him, and lies under the common reproach of a proud peevish person. He seeks renown by his rage and revenge, as Lamech that vaunted of his valour this way to his wives; Alexander Pheraeus, who consecrated the javelin wherewith he had slain Polyphron; Caelius, the lawyer, who gloried to be held the most froward and frample (brawler) Roman alive, &c. But God loadeth such a man with disgrace, as here, and gives him his due character. Men also will hate him and despise him for a "son of Belial," as Nabal’s servants said of him; for a mad frantic fellow, being once enraged, cares not what he says, as Jonas, what he doth, as Saul, who dealing in proud wrath, was so kindled by the devil, that he could not be quenched till he fell into the unquenchable lake. Besides the infamy that will never be washed off, the brand of reproach, like that of Dathan and Abiram, who rose up in proud wrath against Moses and Aaron, and are therefore worthily stigmatised with a "this is that Dathan," [Numbers 26:9] like that other, "this is that King Ahaz," [2 Chronicles 28:22] and as we commonly say of such a one, that he is a proud fool.


Verse 25

Proverbs 21:25 The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour.

Ver. 25. The desire of the slothful killeth him.] He only wisheth well to himself; but refusing to labour, "pineth away in his iniquity." [Leviticus 26:39] Neither grace nor wealth is had with wishing; Nemo casu fit sapiens, saith Seneca. (a) Some have a kind of willingness and velleity, a kind of wambling after the best things, but it doth not boil up to the full height of resolution for God.

Virtutem exoptant, contabescuntque relicta. ” - Pers.

Carnal men care not to seek after him whom yet they would fain find, saith Bernard; Cupientes consequi sed non et sequi; have heaven they would, but stick at the hard conditions; like faint chapmen, they bid money for heaven, but are loath to come up to the full price for it. Balaam wished well to heaven; so did the young Pharisee in the gospel, that came to Christ hastily, but went away heavily. Herod for a long time desired to see Christ, but never stirred out of doors to see him. Pilate asked Christ, What is truth? but never stayed his answer. The sluggard puts out his arm to rise, and pulls it in again; he turns upon his bed, as the door doth upon the hinges, which yet comes not off for all the turnings, but hangs still, and this is his utter undoing. Men must not think that good things, whether spiritual or temporal, will drop out of the clouds to them, as towns were said to come into Timotheus’s toil while he slept. (b) Now, "perform the doing of it," saith St Paul to those lazy Corinthians. [2 Corinthians 8:12] A thirsty man will not only long for drink, but labour after it. A covetous man will not only wish for wealth, but strive to compass it. Yet not every covetous man, I confess; for in the next verse it is said of the sluggard,


Verse 26

Proverbs 21:26 He coveteth greedily all the day long: but the righteous giveth and spareth not.

Ver. 26. He coveteth greedily all day long.] But these greedy constant coverings come to nothing he makes nothing of them. Meteors have matter enough in the vapours themselves to carry them above the earth, but not enough to unite them to the element of fire, therefore they fall and return to their first principles. So it is with our wishers and woulders. Many came out of Egypt, that never came into Canaan; and why? The land they liked well, but complained, with those spies, of the strength of the Anakims, and the impossibility of the conquest, therefore their carcases fell in the wilderness; their sluggishness slew them. "They lusted and had not, they killed" themselves with coveting, as in the former verse, and "desired to have," as here, "but could not obtain." [James 4:2]

But the righteous giveth and spareth not.] Neither necessity nor niggardice hindereth him; he hath it, and he holds that he hath no more than he giveth. He is both painful and pitiful, and what he cannot do for the poor himself, he stirs up others to do; so far is he from forbidding, or hindering any from showing mercy. Some render the words thus: The righteous giveth, and forbiddeth not. "Give a portion," saith he to his richer friend, "to seven, and also to eight, for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth." [Ecclesiastes 11:2] {See Trapp on "Ecclesiastes 11:2"}


Verse 27

Proverbs 21:27 The sacrifice of the wicked [is] abomination: how much more, [when] he bringeth it with a wicked mind?

Ver. 27. The sacrifice of the wicked, &c.] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 15:8"}

How much more when he bringeth it, &c.] As Balak and Balaam did. [Numbers 23:1-2] As those that present ex rapine holocaustum, a sacrifice of what they have got by rapine and robbery; and as those likewise that ask good things at God’s hand, that they may "consume them upon their lusts." [James 4:3] Let the wicked bring his sacrifice with never so good an intention, he is an abomination; but if with an evil mind, his dissembled sanctity is double iniquity, as if a man think by observing the Sabbath to take out a license to walk licentiously all the week long; or by praying in a morning to get a dispensation to do evil all day after. I have read of one that would haunt the taverns, theatres, and whore houses at London all day; but he durst not go forth without private prayer in the morning, and then would say at his departure, Now devil do thy worst. (a) The Circassians are said to divide their life between rapine and repentance. (b) The Papists, many of them, make account of confessing, as drunkards do of vomiting. When we have sinned, say they, we must confess, and when we have confessed, we must sin again, that we may also confess again, and make work for new indulgences and jubilees. (c)


Verse 28

Proverbs 21:28 A false witness shall perish: but the man that heareth speaketh constantly.

Ver. 28. A false witness shall perish.] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 19:5"} The Scythians had a law that if any man did duo peccata contorquere, bind two sins together, a lie and an oath, he was to lose his head, because this was the way to take away all faith and truth among men.

But the man that heareth speaketh constantly.] He testifieth confidently what he knoweth assuredly; he is always also in the same tale, as Paul was in the plea to the chief captain, to Felix, to Festus, and to Agrippa. Not so Bellarmine. How oft doth that loud liar forget himself, and write contradictions? As for instance, in one place he affirmeth that it can by no means be proved by Scripture that any part of Scripture is the very word of God. Sed mendax redarguit seipsum, saith Pareus. (a) But the liar confutes himself by saying elsewhere, besides other arguments to evince the divinity of the canonical Scripture, it giveth sufficient testimony to itself. (b)


Verse 29

Proverbs 21:29 A wicked man hardeneth his face: but [as for] the upright, he directeth his way.

Ver. 29. A wicked man hardeneth his face.] Procaciter obfirmat vultum suum, so the Vulgate renders it. The false witness [Proverbs 21:28] impudently defends, or at least extenuates and excuses his falsities. Frontem perfricat, assuens mendacium mendacio, as the Hebrew hath it. [Psalms 119:69] He thinks to make good one lie by another; to outface the truth, to overbear it with a bold countenance. It seems to be a metaphor from a traveller that sets his face against the wind and weather, and holds on his journey, though he be taking long strides towards destruction. (a)

But as for the upright, he directeth his way.] He proceeds warily, weighs his words before he utters them, and delivers nothing but the naked truth. And truth is like our first parents, most beautiful when naked. Some interpreters take this verse as setting forth the difference between the wicked and the godly, without any relation to the false and true witness. [Proverbs 21:28] And then it is Sententia sapiente digna, saith one, tam paucis verbis tam profundum sensum cumulans; a sentence worthy of Solomon, as having so much in a little.


Verse 30

Proverbs 21:30 [There is] no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD.

Ver. 30. There is no wisdom against the Lord.] That is, they are all to no purpose. If God deny concourse, and influence, the arm of human power and policy, as Jeroboam’s, shrinks up presently. [Psalms 2:1-3; Psalms 33:10-11; Psalms 62:3] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 19:21"} Excellently Gregory - Divinum consilium dum devitatur impletur; humana sapientia dum reluctatur, comprehenditur. God’s decree is fulfilled by those that have least mind to it. Human wisdom, while it strives for masteries, is overmastered.


Verse 31

Proverbs 21:31 The horse [is] prepared against the day of battle: but safety [is] of the LORD.

Ver. 31. The horse is prepared against the day, &c.] A very serviceable creature, and in battle full of terror; so swift in service that the Persians dedicated him to their god, the sun, ασπερ το ταλιστον τω ταχυτατω, as Pausanias hath it. But as the sun in heaven can neither be outrun nor stopped in his race, so neither by men, though wise, nor by means, though likely, can God’s purposes be disappointed. "A horse is a vain thing for safety; neither shall he deliver any by his great strength." [Psalms 33:17]

But safety (or victory) is of the Lord.] He gives it to which side he pleaseth, as he did to the Israelites in the conquest of Canaan, though they had no horses to help them, as their adversaries had, and chariots too, both Egyptians and Canaanites.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 21:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/proverbs-21.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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