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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Proverbs 26

 

 

Verse 1

Proverbs 26:1 As snow in summer, and as rain in harvest, so honour is not seemly for a fool.

Ver. 1. So honour is not seemly for a fool.] Honour is the reward of virtue; dignity should wait upon desert. Sed dignitas in indigno est ornamentum in luto, as Salvian. Honour is as fit for a fool as a gold ring for a swine’s snout. Sedes prima et vita ima, will never suit. The order of nature is inverted when the vilest men are exalted; [Psalms 12:8] it is a foul incongruity, and of very evil consequence. For thereby themselves will be hardened, and others heartened to the like prosperous folly, felix enim scelus virtus vocatur, saith Cicero. (a) The study of virtue also will be neglected when fools are preferred, and God’s heavy wrath poured out in full measure upon these uncircumcised vice-gods - as I may in the worst sense best term them - who misrepresent him to the world by their ungodly practices, as a wicked, crooked, unrighteous Judge.


Verse 2

Proverbs 26:2 As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.

Ver. 2. As the bird by wandering, and the swallow,] i.e., As these may fly where they will, and nobody cares, or is the worse; so here. And as birds tired with much wandering, and not finding where to rest, return again to their nest, after that they have beat the air with weary wing; so the causeless curse returns to the author. Cursing men are cursed men.

So the curse causeless shall not come.] What was David the worse for Shimei’s rash railings? Or Jeremiah for all the people’s cursings of him? [Jeremiah 15:10] Or the Christian churches for the Jews cursing them in their daily prayers, with a Maledic, Domine, Nazaraeis? or the reformed churches for the Pope’s excommunications and execrations with bell, book, and candle? The Pope is like a wasp, no sooner angry but out comes a sting; which being out, is like a fool’s dagger, rattling and snapping, without an edge. Sit ergo Gallus in nomine diabolorum; { a} The devil take the French, said Pope Julius II, as he was sitting by the fire and saying his prayers, upon news of his forces defeated by the French at the battle of Ravenna. Was not this that very mouth that "speaketh great things and blasphemies?" [Revelation 13:5] And - as qualis herus talis servus, like master, like man - a certain cardinal, entering with a great deal of pomp into Paris, when the people were more than ordinarily earnest with him for his fatherly benediction: Quandoquidem, said he, hic populus vult decipi, decipiatur in nomine diaboli: Forasmuch as this people will be fooled, let them be fooled in the devil’s name. And another cardinal, when at a diet held at Augsburg, Anno Dom. 1559, the Prince Elector’s ambassador was (in his master’s name) present at mass, but would not, as the rest did, kiss the consecrated charger; the cardinal, I say, that sung mass being displeased thereat, cried out, Si non vis benedictionem, habeas tibi maledictionem in aeternum: (b) If thou wilt not have the blessing, thou shalt have God’s curse and mine for ever. "Let them curse, but bless thou: when they arise, let them be ashamed, but let thy servants rejoice." [Psalms 109:28]


Verse 3

Proverbs 26:3 A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool’s back.

Ver. 3. A whip for the horse,] viz., To quicken his slow pace. "A bridle for the ass," wherewith to lead him in the right way; for he goes willingly but a foot pace, and would be oft out, but for the bit; and besides, he is very refractory, and must be "held in with bit and bridle." [Psalms 32:9]

And a rod for the back of fools.] Tυφθεις δε τε νηπιος εγνω. A fool will be the better for beating. Vexatio dat intellectum. Due punishment may well be to these horses and asses - so the Scripture terms unreasonable and wicked men - both for a whip to incite them to good, and for a bridle to rein them in from evil. God hath rods sticking in every corner of his house for these froward fools; and if a rod serve not turn, he hath a "terrible sword." [Isaiah 27:1] So must magistrates. Cuncta prius tentanda. If a rod will do, they need not brandish the sword of justice; nor do as Draco did, who punished with death every light offence. This was to kill a fly upon a man’s forehead with a beetle, to the knocking out of his brains.


Verse 4

Proverbs 26:4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.

Ver. 4. Answer not a fool according to his folly.] When either he curseth thee, {as Proverbs 26:2} or cryeth out upon thee for giving him due correction [Proverbs 26:3] - for every public person had need to carry a spare handkerchief, to wipe off the dirt of disgrace and obloquy cast upon him for doing his duty, - pass such a one by in silence, as not worthy the answering. Sile, et funestam dedisti plagam, say nothing, and you play him to purpose. (a) Hezekiah would not answer Rabshakeh, nor Jeremiah Hananiah; [Jeremiah 28:11] nor our Saviour his adversaries. [Matthew 26:62 John 19:9] He reviled not his revilers, he threatened not his open opposites. [1 Peter 2:23]

Lest thou also be like unto him.] As hot and as headlong as he; for a little thing kindles us, and we are apt to think that we have reason to be mad, if evil entreated; to talk as fast for ourselves as he doth against us, and to give him as good as he brings; so that at length there will be never a wiser of the two, and people will say so.


Verse 5

Proverbs 26:5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.

Ver. 5. Answer a fool according to his folly.] Cast in somewhat that may sting him, and stop his mouth. Stone him with soft words but hard arguments, as Christ dealt with Pilate, lest he lift up his crest, and look upon himself as a conqueror, and be held so by the hearers. In fine, when a fool is among such as himself, answer him, lest he seem wise. If he be among wise men, answer him not, and they will regard rather quid tu taceas, quam quod ille dicat, thy seasonable silence than his passionate prattle.


Verse 6

Proverbs 26:6 He that sendeth a message by the hand of a fool cutteth off the feet, [and] drinketh damage.

Ver. 6. He that sendeth a message by the hand of a fool.] The worth of a faithful messenger he had set forth; [Proverbs 15:13] here, the discommodity of a foolish one - such as were the spies Moses sent. [Numbers 13:1-33; Numbers 14:1-38] So when the prophet proves a fool, and the "spiritual man is mad," [Hosea 9:7] things go on as heavily as if feet were wanting to a traveller, or as if a messenger had lost his legs.


Verse 7

Proverbs 26:7 The legs of the lame are not equal: so [is] a parable in the mouth of fools.

Ver. 7. The legs of the lame are not equal.] Locum habet proverbium cum is qui male vivit, bene loquitur, saith an interpreter. (a) This proverb hits such as speak well, but live otherwise. Uniformity and ubiquity of obedience are sure signs of sincerity; but as [an] unequal pulse argues a distempered body, so doth uneven walking show a diseased soul. A wise man’s life is all of one colour, like itself; and godliness runs through it, as the woof runs through the warp. But if all the parts of the line of thy life be not straight before God, it is a crooked life. If thy tongue speak by the talent, but thine hands scarce work by the ounce, thou shalt pass for a Pharisee. [Matthew 23:3] They spake like angels, lived like devils; had heaven commonly at their tongue ends, but the earth continually at their finger ends. Odi homines ignava opera, philosopha sententia, said the heathen; that is, I hate such hypocrites as have mouths full of holiness, hearts full of hollowness. A certain stranger coming on embassy to the senate of Rome, and colouring his hoary hair and pale cheeks with vermilion hue, a grave senator espying the deceit, stood up and said, ‘What sincerity are we to expect at this man’s hand, whose locks, and looks, and lips do lie?’


Verse 8

Proverbs 26:8 As he that bindeth a stone in a sling, so [is] he that giveth honour to a fool.

Ver. 8. As he that bindeth a stone in a sling.] A precious stone is not fit for a sling - where it will soon be cast away and lost; no more is honour for a fool. See Proverbs 26:1. Ebenezra saith that Margemah, here rendered a sling, signifies purple, and senseth it thus: As it is an absurd thing to wrap a pebble in purple, so is it to prefer a fool, as Saul did Doeg, as Ahasuerus Haman.


Verse 9

Proverbs 26:9 [As] a thorn goeth up into the hand of a drunkard, so [is] a parable in the mouth of fools.

Ver. 9. As a thorn goeth up into the hand, &c.] He handleth it hard, as if it were another kind of wood, and it runs into his hand. So do profane persons pervert and pollute the Holy Scriptures, to their own and other men’s destruction. By a parable here the Hebrews understand either these parables of Solomon or the whole book of God. At this day no people under heaven do so abuse Scripture as the Jews do. For commending, in their familiar epistles, some letter they have received, they say, Eloquia Domini, eloquia pura, - The words of my Lord are pure words. When they flatter their friends, Pateat, they say, accessus ad aditum sanctitatis tuae: (a) Let me have access to the sanctuary of thy holiness. When they would testify themselves thankful, Nomini tuo psallam, - I will sing praise to thy name. When they complain, friends forsake them, "Lord," say they, "thou goest not forth with our armies." When they invite their friends to a banquet or a wedding, "In thee have I trusted; let me not be put to confusion." Lo, thus do these witless, wicked wretches abuse God’s parables, and take his name in vain. Whereas the very heathen could say, Non loquendum de Deo sine lumine, - God is not to be talked of lightly, loosely, disrespectfully. "Thou shalt fear that glorious and fearful name, Jehovah thy God," saith Moses, their own lawgiver. [Deuteronomy 28:58]


Verse 10

Proverbs 26:10 The great [God] that formed all [things] both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.

Ver. 10. The great God that formed all things.] As he made all so he maintains all, even the evil and the unthankful. God deals not as that cruel Duke of Alva did in the Netherlands; - some he roasted to death, saith the historian, (a) starved others, and that even after quarter, saying, though he promised to give them their lives, he did not promise to find them meat; - but as he hath given them their lives, forfeited in Adam, so he allows them a livelihood, gives them their portion in this life, fills their bellies with his good treasure, but by it sends leanness into their souls, or if he fattens them, it is to fit them for destruction, as fated ware is fitted for the meat market.


Verse 11

Proverbs 26:11 As a dog returneth to his vomit, [so] a fool returneth to his folly.

Ver. 11. As a dog returneth to his vomit.] A homely comparison, able to make a true Christian ready to lay up all, but good enough for the odious apostate to whom it is applied. Such a one was Judas, Julian, Ecebolius, Baldvinus, Islebius, Agricola, that first Antinomian, - who did many times promise amendment, and yet afterwards fell to his error again; - after that he condemned his error, and recanted it in a public auditory, and printed his revocation; yet when Luther was dead, he relapsed into that error, so hard a thing is it to get poison out when once swallowed down. Harding, Bishop Jewel’s antagonist, was in King Edward’s days a thundering preacher against Popery, wishing he could cry out against it as loud as the bells of Oseney, so that by his preaching many were confirmed in the truth. All which to be so they can testify that heard him and be yet alive, saith Mr Foxe. See an excellent letter of the Lady Jane Grey’s to him while she was prisoner in the Tower, "Acts and Monuments," fol. 1291, wherein she wills him to remember the horrible history of Julian of old, and the lamentable case of Spira a late, &c.


Verse 12

Proverbs 26:12 Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? [there is] more hope of a fool than of him.

Ver. 12. Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit?] This foolish wise man, or wise foolish man (for whether of the two to call him I know not, as the chronicler saith of Sir Thomas Moore), is that "dog" spoken of in verse Proverbs 26:11, that forethinks not the evil that followeth upon his returning to his filthy vomit, which, being made much worse by the heat of the sun and open air, maketh him much more sick than before he had been. Similarily, the witless wicked man, insensible of the evil of his way, and highly conceited thereof, goes boldly on, till there be neither hope of better nor place of worse. {See Trapp on "Proverbs 3:7"} See my Common Place of Arrogance.


Verse 13

Proverbs 26:13 The slothful [man] saith, [There is] a lion in the way; a lion [is] in the streets.

Ver. 13. The slothful man sayeth, There is a lion.] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 22:13"}


Verse 14

Proverbs 26:14 [As] the door turneth upon his hinges, so [doth] the slothful upon his bed.

Ver. 14. As the door turneth upon his hinges.] But comes not off, unless lifted or knocked off. So neither comes the sluggard out of his feathered nest, where he lies soaking and stretching, unless hard hunger or other necessity rouse and raise him. As abroad there is a lion, so at home there is a lusk, a lurdam, and a losel, that lives in the worm to no purpose - yea, to bad purpose, and being wise in his own conceit, will not accept of better counsel. Those whose heads are laid upon down pillows are not apt to hear noises; no more are those that live at ease in Zion to hearken to wholesome advice, or if sometimes they have a kind of willingness and velleity to do better, yet it is but as the door that turns on the hinges, but yet hangs still upon them.


Verse 15

Proverbs 26:15 The slothful hideth his hand in [his] bosom; it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth.

Ver. 15. The slothful hideth his hand in his bosom.] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 19:24"}


Verse 16

Proverbs 26:16 The sluggard [is] wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.

Ver. 16. Than seven men that can render a reason.] Yea, though they were the seven wise men of Greece, they were all fools to him. The proud Pharisees rejected the counsel of God, and would not be baptized of John. [Luke 7:30] Belly policy teaches the sluggard a great many excuses, which he thinks will go for wisdom, because by them he thinks to sleep in a whole skin.


Verse 17

Proverbs 26:17 He that passeth by, [and] meddleth with strife [belonging] not to him, [is like] one that taketh a dog by the ears.

Ver. 17. He that passeth by and meddleth, &c.] Two kind of studies have I always hated, saith one: Studium partium, et studium novarum forum. Study of parts, and study of new markets. They that enter strife without calling, saith another, do commonly hazard themselves into trouble without comfort. This was Jehoshaphat’s folly at Jabeshgilead, and, as some think, Josiah’s when he went up against Pharaohnecho, thinking thereby to ingratiate with the Assyrian, Pharaoh’s professed enemy. It is from idleness usually that men are thus busy in other men’s matters without thank or other benefit, [1 Timothy 5:13 1 Thessalonians 4:11] and therefore this proverb fitly follows the former. Howbeit this is not always true, for charity may move men to interpose for a right understanding and a good accord between disagreeing parties. Neither in this case must a man affect to be held no meddler, since "blessed are the peace makers." And though it be for most part a thankless office - for if a man have two friends he oft loseth one of them - yet our reward is with God; and if, by seeking to part the scuffle, we derive some blows upon ourselves, yet the Euge of a good conscience will salve that well enough. That which is here forbidden is for a man to make himself a party, and maintain one side against another. And yet where it is for God and his truth this may be done too; as when Queen Elizabeth not only sat as umpire between the Spaniard, French, and Hollanders (a) - so as she might well have taken up that saying of her father, Cui adhaereo, praeest, He whom I side with carries it - but afterwards, when she saw her time, undertook the protection of the Netherlanders against the Spaniard, wherein all princes admired her fortitude, and the King of Sweden said that she had now taken the diadem from her head, and set it upon the doubtful chance of war. This was done Anno 1585. (b)

Is like else that taketh a dog by the ears.] Where he loves not to be handled, but about the neck rather. The Dutch have a like proverb, - To take a dog by the tail. The Greeks, - To take a lion by the beard, or a bear by the tooth - to thrust one’s hand into a wasp’s nest - to stir up a scorpion, &c. (c)


Verse 19

Proverbs 26:19 So [is] the man [that] deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport?

Ver. 19. Am not I in jest?] The wicked man’s mirth is usually mixed with mischief. It is no sport, unless he may have the devil his play fellow - no good fellowship without horse play. Salt jests, and dry flouts, to the just grief or disgrace of another, is counted facetious and fine. But St Paul calls it foolish (a) [Ephesians 5:4] and further saith, that "for such things’ sake the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience." Quid mihi cum fabulis, cum iocis? saith Bernard, - What hath a Christian to do with jesting and jeering? We allow a horse to prance and skip in a pasture, which if he doth when backed by the rider, we count him an unruly and unbroken jade. So, howsoever in heathens and atheists God may wink at jocularity aud dicacity, yet he looks for better things from his own people. Credo mihi, res severa est verum gaudium, saith Seneca; True mirth is a severe business. But what a madman was Robert de Beliasme, Earl of Shrewsbury, 1111 AD, delighting to do mischief and exercise his cruelty, and then to say, Are not I in jest? An example hereof he showed upon his own son, who, being but a child, and playing with him, the father, for a pastime, put his thumb in the boy’s eyes, and thrust out the balls thereof. (b)


Verse 20

Proverbs 26:20 Where no wood is, [there] the fire goeth out: so where [there is] no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.

Ver. 20. Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out.] Lignis ignis conservatur. So is strife by evil tongues; these are the devil’s bellows and boutefeaus. "Ye shall conceive chaff, ye shall bring forth stubble, your breath as fire shall devour you." [Isaiah 33:11] Such is the breath of tale bearers. A curfew bell would do well for these incendiaries, that else may "set on fire the whole course of nature." [James 3:6] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 16:28"}


Verse 21

Proverbs 26:21 [As] coals [are] to burning coals, and wood to fire; so [is] a contentious man to kindle strife.

Ver. 21. So is a contentious man.] Heb., A man of contentions, Vir biliosus et bellicosus; a man made up of discords, as Democritus said the world was - that loves to live in the fire, as the salamander doth; the dog days continue with such all the year long, and, like mad dogs, they bite and set a-madding all they can fasten on, as did Sheba, Korah, and Judas, who set all the disciples murmuring at the oil poured on Christ’s head. So Arius set all the Christian world on a light fire, and Pope Hildebrand cast abroad his firebrands.


Verse 22

Proverbs 26:22 The words of a talebearer [are] as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.

Ver. 22. The words of a talebearer, &c.] See Proverbs 18:8.


Verse 23

Proverbs 26:23 Burning lips and a wicked heart [are like] a potsherd covered with silver dross.

Ver. 23. Burning lips and a wicked heart, &c.] The tongue of the righteous is as fined silver; but glossing lips upon a false heart is no better than dross upon dirt: counterfeit friends are naught on both sides, having os maledictum et cor malum, as Luther renders this text; - a bad mouth, and a worse heart. Wicked men are said to speak with a heart and a heart, [Psalms 12:2, marg.} as speaking one thing and thinking another, drawing a fair glove on a foul hand. These are dangerous to be dealt withal; for, like serpents, they can sting without hissing; like cur dogs, suck your blood only with licking, and in the end kill you and cut your throats without biting: so cunning and close are they in the conveyance of their collusion. Squire, sent out of Spain to poison Queen Elizabeth, anointed the pommel of her saddle with poison secretly, and, as it were, doing somewhat else, praying with a loud voice, God save the queen. (a) When those Romish incendiaries, Gifford, Hodgeson, and others, had set Savage to work to kill the said queen, they first set forth a book to persuade the English Catholics to attempt nothing against her. So Parsons, when he had hatched that nameless villany, the gunpowder plot, set forth his book of Resolution, as if he had been wholly made up of devotion. Caveatur osculum Iscarioticum. Betware the mouth of Judus. It is the property of a godly man to speak the truth from his heart. {Psalms 15:2]


Verse 24

Proverbs 26:24 He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him;

Ver. 24. He that hateth dissembleth with his lips.] And so heaps sin upon sin, till he be transformed into a breathing devil. This is meant not so much of the passion of hatred as of the habit of it; when it hath wholly leavened the heart, and lies watching its opportunity of doing mischief. The devil is at inn with such, as Mr Bradford (a) phraseth it, and was as great a master, long before the Florentine secretary was born, as since.


Verse 25

Proverbs 26:25 When he speaketh fair, believe him not: for [there are] seven abominations in his heart.

Ver. 25. When he speaketh fair, believe him not.] Nηφε και μεμνησο απιστειν. Take heed whom you trust; "beware of men"; [Matthew 10:17] bless yourselves from your pretended friends, and pray with David to be "delivered from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue." [Psalms 120:2] Admit they not only speak us fair, but do us many kindnesses; yet believe them as little as David did Saul. Enemies’ gifts are giftless gifts, said one heathen. (a) And timeo Danaos et dona ferentes, saith another. (b)

“Munera magna quidem misit, sed misit in hamo:

Et piscatorcm piscis amare potest?” - Martial.


Verse 26

Proverbs 26:26 [Whose] hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be shewed before the [whole] congregation.

Ver. 26. Whose hatred is covered by deceit, &c.] He shall be detected and detested of all, sooner or later. God will wash off his varnish with rivers of brimstone. Love, as it is the best armour, so it is the worst cloak, and will serve dissemblers, as the disguise Ahab put on, and perished. [1 Kings 22:30-37]


Verse 27

Proverbs 26:27 Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him.

Ver. 27. Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall thereinto.] This is the same with Psalms 7:15, from which it seems to be taken; {See Trapp on "Psalms 7:15"} Heathen writers have many proverbs to like purpose. See Erasm. Chiliad.

And he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him.] Cardinal Benno relates a memorable story of Pope Hildebrand, or Gregory VII, that he hired a base fellow to lay a great stone upon a beam in the church where Henry IV, the emperor, used to pray, and so to lay it that it might fall as from the top of the church upon the emperor’s head, and kill him. But while this wretch was attempting to do it, the stone, with its weight, drew him down, and falling upon him, dashed him in pieces upon the pavement. The Thracians in Herodotus, being offended with Jupiter for raining unseasonably upon them, shot up their arrows at him, which soon after returned upon their own heads.


Verse 28

Proverbs 26:28 A lying tongue hateth [those that are] afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin.

Ver. 28. A lying tongue hateth those that are addicted by it.] False love proves to be true hatred, by the evil consequent of its ruin and destruction to the party flattered, and betrayed by a smooth supparasitation. There are those who thus read the text. The false tongue hateth those that smite it, &c. Truth breeds hatred, as the fair nymphs did the ill-favoured fauns and satyrs.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 26:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/proverbs-26.html. 1865-1868.

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