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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Proverbs 27

 

 

Verse 1

1. Boast not thyself — Do not exult too confidently in anticipation of the future. Count not too surely on life and prosperity, but redeem the time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5. We cannot know the future, and all attempts curiously to pry into it are foolish and unprofitable, and, in some cases, sinful. Such are resorts to fortune tellers, necromancers, spirit mediums, and the various other modes of discovering what is yet concealed in the womb of time. This does not preclude the forming of a judgment of what will probably occur in the natural course of things, whether by the known laws of physics, of the mind, of society, or of Providence. Compare James 4:13-14; Luke 12:20.


Verse 2

2. Let another… praise thee… stranger — Self praise is no commendation. This proverb does not make against any person speaking modestly, when occasion calls for it, of his own acts, but is aimed at all vain boasting. Do worthy deeds which shall compel commendation from others. When necessary, a man not only may, but should, defend his innocence and uprightness. Compare Proverbs 25:27, latter clause.


Verse 3

3. A stone is heavy — The words “heavy” and “heavier” are employed, in this verse, in both a literal and a tropical sense. See an example of the same use in Matthew 8:22 : “Let the dead bury their dead.”

A fool’s wrath — The vexation of a fool; that is, the vexation of which he is the cause —vexation or trouble by a fool. Zockler understands it of the arrogance and ill temper experienced by the “fool” himself. Such ill temper is a burden heavier than stone or sand.


Verse 4

4. Anger is outrageous — Impetuous; an outpouring like a rushing torrent.

Envy קנאה, (kinah,) mostly rendered jealousy in our Version, but sometimes “envy.” The critics generally give the preference to jealousy here. By some, envy and jealousy are considered the same passion with different objects. Compare Proverbs 6:34-35.


Verse 5

5. Open rebuke — Whether it comes from friend or foe, is, like any other chastening, “not joyous, but grievous;” nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth, at least in good men, “the peaceable fruits of righteousness.”

Secret love — Love kept concealed, silent, inactive, is fruitless for good. It may refer to that love which, from false considerations, does not name one’s faults. Not “speaking the truth in love.” Ephesians 4:15.


Verse 6

6. The wounds — Cutting rebukes from faithful friends are, from the nature of the case, few. They are never given except when necessity demands them. On the contrary, the honied compliments of a deceitful enemy have no similar restriction, and are multiplied for the purpose of covering up enmity and more effectually carrying out evil purposes.

Deceitful — The critics generally prefer plentiful, profuse, or multiplied. See Ezekiel 35:13. The antithesis, as is often the case, lies between things implied and readily supplied by the mind. Zockler and others however give the sense “deceitful,” following the Vulgate fraudulentia. Compare Proverbs 26:23; Psalms 141:5.


Verse 7

7. Full soul — The satiated appetite, put by figure for the person possessing it. So, also, in the next clause.

Hungry soul — A craving appetite. The proverb, in its most literal sense, is a lesson learned from experience. The principle has its amplifications. The honest labourer often relishes more his coarser fare than the pampered Epicurean does his richest feast. Men are often more grateful for the smallest blessings associated with poverty, than rich men are for the greater delicacies with which they have been long surfeited. “Hunger is the best cook.” Indulgence brings satiety and disgust; self restraint multiplies enjoyments. Compare Job 6:7. Loatheth — Literally, tramples upon.

Honeycomb — Drippings of honey.


Verse 8

8. Wandereth from her nest, etc. — A caution against hasty, unnecessary changes in life, either in regard to country, home, occupation, or condition. “A rolling stone gathers no moss;” “two removes are equal to a fire,” are like proverbs among ourselves. Some understand it merely of leaving one’s home. “A man from home,” if he has a good one, is like a bird away from its nest, restless, unsatisfied.” — Stuart. True and good, but probably not all that is intended. There is a tendency to dissatisfaction with our present positions, conditions, business, etc. We know their difficulties, cares, vexations, and are apt to imagine that we could be happier in some other place, condition, or business. Thus, some men are perpetually changing and moving; like Noah’s dove, finding no rest for the sole of their feet.


Verse 9

9. Ointment and perfume — Odoriferous ointment, incense, or distilled perfume.

Rejoice the heart — Refresh, comfort, exhilarate the spirits. “During our conversation some slaves brought a very richly ornamented silver tripod, filled with burning coals, upon which some incense was thrown, and it was presented to us to inhale the fragrant smoke; and at the moment we inclined our head a slave sprinkled some rose-water over us from a bottle he held in his left hand.” — Bramsen’s Tour, quoted by Burder. Probably to such a custom, so calculated to refresh and exhilarate, the words of Solomon have an allusion.

The sweetness — The agreeableness, “the comity.” — Stuart.

By hearty counsel — “That which springs from the set purpose of the soul.” — Stuart. “So agreeable is the counsel of a person to a friend.” — Boothroyd. “Sweet, too is a man’s friend by hearty counsel.” — Noyes. “But the sweetness of a friend is above scented wood.” — Trench. So Gesenius, Conant, and others, substantially. The diversity of reading grows out of the similarity of the words, in the Hebrew, for wood and counsel. In Isaiah 3:20, בתי הנפשׁ, (botte hannephesh,) are understood to mean perfume boxes. In the Authorized Version, tablets. How much precious ointment, fragrant woods, and spices were esteemed by the ancient Orientals is attested by many passages of both the Old and the New Testaments. (See M’Clintock

& Strong’s Cyclopaedia, under the word “Anoint.”)


Verse 10

10. Better is a neighbour that is near, etc. — The subject of friendship is continued. Muenscher has this pertinent note here: “In adversity the ties of consanguinity are not always to be depended upon. It is only long tried friends who can be confidently relied upon in such circumstances. Distance is apt to produce indifference even among relations; hence, a true friend (or a neighbour who is one in the full sense of the word) is more valuable and beneficial than a brother far away.”

Far off — May have a tropical sense — distant in affectionate feeling. Compare Proverbs 17:17; Proverbs 18:24.


Verse 11

11. May answer him — Literally, that I may return a word, etc.

That reproacheth me — That is, with want of care in the education of my child. The good and wise conduct of children is the best compliment to their parents. Instead of “that I may answer,” etc., some Versions, as the Vulgate, read: “That thou mayest answer.” Compare Proverbs 1:8, et seq.; Proverbs 10:1; Proverbs 22:21; Proverbs 23:15; Proverbs 23:24; Psalms 119:42; Psalms 127:5.


Verse 12

12. Substantially the same as Proverbs 22:3. There is some difference in the form of the words, but none in the sense.

Prudent — Shrewd.


Verse 13

13. The same as Proverbs 20:16, which see. Compare Proverbs 6:1; Proverbs 11:15.


Verse 14

14. Rising early in the morning — “Rising in the night.” — Vulgate. The phrase, which is only two words in the Hebrew, is used to denote great zeal and earnestness. Extravagant and ill-timed praise is liable to excite suspicion of unworthy motives. The proverb is understood by some in this sense: That it is dangerous to make too much haste in praising men when they have not fully established their character. Too early and too much praise may be the ruin of a man, making him have a vain opinion of his own abilities and worth. (See on Proverbs 27:21.) It is uncertain whether the word him, in the last clause, means the blesser or the blessed. For the use of this word blesseth, in formal salutation, compare Ruth 2:4; Psalms 129:8.


Verse 15

15. A continual dropping… rainy day — A pouring rain. The word occurs only here. “In a winter’s day, or a stormy day.” — Septuagint. “In a day of cold.” — Vulgate. “Such rains as we have had thoroughly soak through the earthen roots of these mountain houses, and the water descends in numberless leaks all over the room. This continual dropping — tuk, tuk — all day and all night, is the most annoying thing in the world, unless it be the ceaseless clatter of a contentious woman.” — THOMSON, Land and Book, ii, p. 453. “He is in an ill case the roof of whose house is so ruinous that in a very rainy day, when he shall be wet if he go abroad, he cannot be dry at home; and he is no better that hath a scolding wife, who torments him if he stay at home, and makes him tormented with jeers if he go abroad.” — Patrick. Comp. Proverbs 19:13.


Verse 16

16. Hideth her… bewrayeth itself — This verse is obscure and variously rendered. The difficulty is chiefly in determining the root of the verb יקרא, (yikra,) translated “bewrayeth.” One root would give us call, call out, declare, etc.; the other, happen, befall, encounter, etc. Different interpreters render according to their idea on this subject. A few specimens may be given: “He that refraineth her refraineth the wind, and holdeth oil fast in his right hand.” — Coverdale. “Ointment which discovers itself.” — Boothroyd. “Conceal the fragrant oil which is upon his right hand.” — Trench. “Cometh upon oil.” — Stuart. “Encounters oil.” — Conant. “It is altogether as impossible for him to keep the wind from blowing, or to inclose a fragrant oil in his right hand so that its perfume shall not be perceived, as to make her hold her tongue, or to conceal her bawling humour.” — Patrick. “He that hideth her, hideth the winde, and she is as ye oyle in his sight that vttereth itself.” — Geneva Bible. The proverb is understood to be a sequel to the one preceding.


Verse 17

17. Iron sharpeneth iron; so, etc. — Men’s minds are excited to activity by contact. One wit whets another. One friend encourages another. One intellectual man stimulates another. Both good and bad emotions are excited by mutual conversation. It is probable that the wise man here chiefly refers to the enlivening and improving influence of good, intelligent society.

Countenance פני (pene) may be used tropically for mind. Miller translates: “Iron is welded to iron, so for a man the tie is the face of his friend.” He takes the root to be יחד, (yahhadh,) instead of חדד, (hhadhadh:) his idea is not without plausibility.


Verse 18

18. Eat the fruit thereof — Diligence and faithfulness in any relation of life shall be honoured with a reward. A general principle.

Waiteth on — Guards his master, or watches faithfully over his interests. Comp. Proverbs 12:11; Proverbs 28:19; 2 Timothy 2:6.


Verse 19

19. As in water face answereth to face — Water was the first mirror, and a basin of pure water is the only reflector used by many in the East to this day.

So the heart of man to man — The properties of human nature are common. We have substantially the same passions, affections, propensities, joys, sorrows, hopes, fears, motives, etc. So a man may reason from his own nature to that of others, and know others by himself. He may also judge himself, to some extent, by others. One heart corresponds to another.

Some find, also, this sense in the words: That as face answers to face in water, so a man ought to expect no other affections from men than those he expresses toward them. Love answers to love, hatred to hatred.


Verse 20

20. Hell שׁאול, (sheol,) the under or unseen world — the world of the dead, sometimes used of the place of unending punishment.

Never full — Not satisfied nor satiated.

So the eyes of man — “The lust of the eye” may be taken as the type of all desire. It is insatiable. Compare Ecclesiastes 1:8; 1 John 2:16; Proverbs 5:5; Proverbs 7:27; Proverbs 9:18; Proverbs 15:11; Proverbs 23:14.


Verse 21

21. Fining pot — A crucible.

So is a man to his praise — Or in respect to the praise bestowed upon him. Praise develops his true character. Many men cannot bear it. “They are puffed up,” and shown to be drossy or impure. Zockler gives the latter clause thus: “But a man according to his glorying;” that is, if he glories in praiseworthy things, he is praiseworthy, but if in base things, he is base. A good sense, which is also that of some others. “The meaning is, a man’s taste, or, as that is an inactive term, his praisings, work back upon him as thoroughly as a fining pot upon ore of silver.” — Miller. Compare Proverbs 19:3; Proverbs 12:8, in the Hebrew. The Septuagint has, for the latter clause: “A man is tried by the mouth of them that praise him.”


Verse 22

22. Bray — Pound, beat.

Wheat — Any kind of grain, or anything pounded or bruised. “Barley, after being soaked in water, was [partially] dried in the sun, and then pounded in a mortar with a wooden pestle till the husk came off.” The sentiment of the proverb is: No punishment, however severe, can cure a fool of his folly. It might be thought improbable that any persons were ever punished by being pounded in a mortar: but sundry travellers, as Baron du Tott, Volney, and Knolles, testify that such a mode of punishment was in use among the Turks. Volney suggests that it came into vogue as a means of reaching those persons, the shedding of whose blood was not permitted by the letter of the law. “As for the guards of the towers,” says Knolles, “who had let Prince Koreskie (a prisoner) escape, some of them were impaled, and some were pounded or beaten to pieces in great mortars of iron, wherein they do usually pound their rice to reduce it to meal.” There are, however, no historic traces of this mode of punishment in Jewish history. The Septuagint knows nothing of “braying in a mortar;” but has instead, “Though thou scourge a fool, disgracing him in the midst of the council.”


Verse 23

23. From this verse to the end of the chapter we have precepts pertaining to husbandry and the pastoral life.

State — Literally, face, appearance.

Look well to — Literally, set thine heart upon. The original is very forcible, and implies such personal care, attention, and familiarity with his flocks, that he would recognise the faces of individual sheep and goats, giving them affectionate oversight and superintendence. Comp. John 10:1, et seq., especially Proverbs 27:3-4. The small cattle of the Hebrews consisted chiefly of sheep and goats, usually pastured together. Hence, צאן, (tson,) flock, mostly of sheep, sometimes included both sheep and goats.


Verse 24

24. Riches are not for ever — This assigns a good reason for the preceding. Wealth, though now abundant, does not necessarily stay for ever. On the contrary, it is very liable to be lost or squandered by carelessness and bad management.


Verse 25

25. The hay appeareth חציר, (hhasir.) It may be doubted whether this is a correct translation. Stuart unsatisfactorily gives: “The grass passeth away.” The word also means an enclosure, court yard, encampment, village. It is probable that it means here either an enclosure for flocks or for pasturage. The verse might be translated: “The pasturage is discovered, and the tender grass appears, and the herbs (herbage) of the mountains are gathered.”


Verse 26

26. Goats עתודים, (hattudhim,) literally, bucks, either of sheep or goats, but here, perhaps, as in Authorized Version, used for goats in general, or for the full grown of sheep and goats. The goats are generally black or parti-coloured. They live night and day, summer and winter, under the open sky. They compensate their owners with milk, which is more highly esteemed than any other, although the milk of the cow is used a part of the year. Their flesh, also, is highly valued. Of their hair, among the Arabs especially, cloth is made to cover the tents. Out of their skins, bottles are manufactured, by stripping the hide from the body without slitting it open. These bottles are used to hold water, milk, wine, and other liquids. They are the kind of bottles spoken of in the Scriptures, as in Matthew 9:17. Goats are consequently greatly valued in the East. In them consisted a considerable part of the wealth of the people. (JAHN’S Bib. Antiq., sec. 46.)


Verse 27

27. Maintenance חיים, (hhayyim,) the means of livelihood — sustenance.

Maidens — Never wanting in a large household. Here, naturally, shepherdesses, milkmaids.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/proverbs-27.html. 1874-1909.

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