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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Proverbs 29

 

 

Verse 1

1. Being often reproved — Literally, a man of reproofs; one who has often been reproved. So, generally, the critics; but not universally. Gesenius gives: “A man of arguments, who, when censured, defends himself.” Miller translates: “A man given to reproving — a sinner setting himself at ease in doctrine, so as to become a teacher.… How strong a clerical text, and how good for sermons before synods and councils of the Church!” The common consent of interpreters, however, sustains the Authorized Version, notwithstanding the analogy of similar forms in this chapter is against it.

Hardeneth his neck — A figure from the work ox, whose neck becomes callous by wearing the yoke. Applied to man, it imports that callousness of heart which results from resisting the truth.

Shall suddenly be destroyed — Some sudden, unexpected calamity shall overtake him. The original has the force of our “shivered to pieces” — irremediable destruction. A fearful admonition to hardened hearts! The Septuagint varies here marvellously: “A reprover is better than a stiffnecked man; for when the latter is suddenly set on fire, there shall be no remedy.” Comp. Proverbs 6:15.


Verse 2

2. Righteous… in authority — Literally, in their becoming great. Some render, when they multiply, increase; but this is not accordant with the next clause.

Mourn — Grieve, are oppressed. Compare Proverbs 11:10; Proverbs 28:12; Proverbs 28:28; Ecclesiastes 10:5.


Verse 3

3. Spendeth his substance — Squanders his wealth. There are but few ways in which riches are so soon and so surely dissipated as by association with lewd women. Comp. Proverbs 10:1; Proverbs 6:26; Proverbs 28:7.


Verse 4

4. By judgment — Administrative justice.

He that receiveth gifts — “A man of exactions, or of oblations, exacts tribute.” — Conant. “Is fond of bribes.” — Zockler. The idea seems to be, that such a man sits upon the throne to receive oblations rather than to dispense justice — that he makes himself a god to be appeased by offerings, and sells favours to the highest bidder. Such, indeed, was and is the character of many of the eastern despots. Nor has this form of iniquity been confined to the East. Dr. Clarke says: “I have met with cases in our ancient records where, in order to get his right, a man was obliged almost to ruin himself in presents to the king, queen, and their favourites.” One of the articles of the Magna Charta is:

Nulli vendemus justitiam; “We will sell justice to no one.” Under our system of government, and in our times, perhaps the most likely place to find the development of this evil is in the legislative department — national and local. Legislators who receive, directly or indirectly, a compensation for their votes, are acting on the principle condemned in this proverb, and are contributing their share to the ruin of their country. Compare Ezekiel 45:9.


Verse 5

5. Flattereth — Literally, makes smooth. “Speaks smoothly.” — Stuart. “Speaking flatteringly about his neighbour.” — Miller. A flatterer may generally be suspected of some sinister design.

His feet — His steps; as though he had spread a net in the way of his steps with the design of entangling his feet. Compare Psalms 5:10; Psalms 36:3; Proverbs 2:16; Proverbs 7:5; Proverbs 26:24; Proverbs 25:28; Proverbs 28:23.


Verse 6

6. Transgression… a snare — In which he is himself taken and brought to sorrow.

But the righteous — He whose conduct is upright, escapes, and, as a consequence, he doth sing and rejoice.


Verse 7

7. Considereth the cause — Pleadeth it. The expression is used in a forensic sense.

Wicked regardeth not to know — Will not take pains to obtain a knowledge of the cause, much less “consider” or plead it. This proverb should be heeded especially by judges and others in official positions. Compare Proverbs 28:5; Job 29:16.


Verse 8

8. Scornful men — Those who scoff at prudent counsels and good management.

Bring a city into a snare — The best critics prefer to render this, “inflame a city” — blow up a flame — incite the people.

Turn away wrath — Abate it, allay excitement. Comp. Ezekiel 22:30; Exodus 32:10-14; Psalms 106:23.


Verse 9

9. Contendeth נשׁפשׂ, (nishpat,) litigates; goes to law before a judge.

Whether he rage or laugh — It is uncertain whether this is predicated of the wise man or the fool. Some suppose one, some the other, and many are in doubt. It probably refers to the fool, and imports that whether he is cast in the suit, in which case he rages and is abusive, or whether he is the gainer, in which case he laughs, jeers, taunts, and boasts, there is no rest, no ceasing, no real settlement of the matter. He will harp on it continually, either in anger or in triumph. Compare Proverbs 29:11; Proverbs 12:16.


Verse 10

10. The bloodthirsty — Literally, men of blood.

Hate the upright — The perfect man, the man of integrity; or, they hate integrity itself.

Seek his soul — Or, his life. The phrase is ambiguous. To “seek life” is, ordinarily, to desire to destroy it. This, according to Gesenius, is the only place where the phrase is used in a good sense — to seek to preserve life. But some understand it, as seeking to avenge the life — requiring the life of the murderer, according to law.


Verse 11

11. All his mind רוחו, (ruhho,) his spirit. He pours out all that is in him at once — has neither reason nor self-control. But a wise man restrains his passions and his speech. Some read, a fool pours out all his passion: but a wise man afterwards soothes it, or tries to appease it.


Verse 12

12. Lies — Hebrew, word of falsehood. It may mean a false accusation against some one, or a false suggestion as to his own merits, abilities, or prerogatives. Bacon takes it to mean an easy, credulous temper; ready to believe detractors and sycophants without examination. “As the judge of the people is himself, so are his officers; and what manner of man the ruler of the city is, such are they that dwell therein.” Sirach 10:2. This last is far too strong.


Verse 13

13. Deceitful man אישׁ תככים, (ish tekhakhim,) the man of oppression or exactions; the usurer, etc. These are all conjectural renderings of the word by different translators, showing that the word is obscure and its meaning uncertain. It occurs only in this place, though a form from the same root occurs in a few others, and is rendered “fraud, deceit.” Chap. Proverbs 14:31; Psalms 10:7; Psalms 55:11; Psalms 72:14. Meet together — Encounter each other. The teaching is the same as in chap.

Proverbs 22:2. Men at opposite ends of the scale stand before God on the same footing. He made them both, and bestows his light equally upon them. They must both stand before him in judgment — rich and poor, oppressor and oppressed: a consolation to the lowly well-doer, and a warning to the unrighteous exacter — they are brothers. In accordance with these ideas were the laws against usury. Compare Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:36-37; Deuteronomy 23:19-20; Psalms 15:5; Proverbs 28:8; Isaiah 24:2; Jeremiah 15:10; Ezekiel 18:8; Ezekiel 18:13; Ezekiel 18:17; Ezekiel 22:12.


Verse 14

14. Faithfully — Truthfully — according to the truth and facts. Comp. Proverbs 20:28; Proverbs 25:5. The King of kings and the Lord of lords is the patron of the poor.


Verse 15

15. Left to himself נער, (na’har,) a boy permitted to go where he pleases; or משׁלח, (meshullahh,) sent forth without parental control, neglected, uncontrolled. Such a child will bring disgrace upon his family. Solomon was a wise man, and believed in the rod when necessary.

Bringeth… shame — Makes his mother ashamed — puts her to the blush. “Mothers are wont to be most at fault in indulging their children, and, therefore, bear the chief shame of their faults.” — Von Gerloch. Comp. Proverbs 29:7; Proverbs 10:1; Proverbs 17:21; Proverbs 17:25; Proverbs 23:13.


Verse 16

16. When the wicked are multiplied — Magnified, become great in power, authority, office.

Transgression increaseth — Becomes great; crimes are greater in number and in enormity from the example or complicity of those in power. There appears to be a paronomasia on the words ברבות, (birbhoth,) and ירבה, (yirbeh,) from the same root, רבה, (rabhah,) which signifies either to become many, or to become great — when the wicked increase, transgression increases. Comp. Proverbs 29:2. See their fall — Their ruin. The righteous shall be there to look on. Patrick says: “Shall have pleasure to see their downfall.” There may be nothing wicked in rejoicing over the fall of bad rulers. It may proceed from benevolence rather than from malice. Compare Psalms 58:10, Psalms 91:8.


Verse 17

17. Delight unto thy soul — Literally, delights, מעדנים, (ma’hadhannim,) from the same root as Eden; גן עדן, (gan hedhen,) the garden of delights. “It may seem more easy and comfortable to let a child have his own wilful way, and troublesome to correct him for his faults; but this is only purchasing present ease at the expense of great future distress; therefore, however painful the duty, correct him when he needs it.” “By joining the rod with the reproof, the moral is sometimes better enforced.” — Chalmers.


Verse 18

18. No vision — Revelation, divine instruction, prophetic guidance.

The people perish יפרע, (yippara’h,) variously translated, are scattered, become dissolute, apostatize, are unrestrained, are unbridled, etc. Melanchthon understood it of a prophet, who, as the expounder of God’s laws, had a great hand in the government, and by his counsels, when followed, made the kingdom flourishing. Witness, Elisha in Samaria, and Isaiah in Jerusalem. But when prophecy ceased the people were scattered, or every one did that which was right in his own eyes. The proverb is capable of a wide application; and the history of the Israelites is an illustration of it. Genesis 46:2; 1 Samuel 3:1; 2 Samuel 7:17; Job 4:13; Daniel 2:19; Hosea 3:4; Amos 8:12; 2 Chronicles 15:3; Psalms 74:9.


Verse 19

19. A servant — A bondman, a slave. The language is applied to such only as are “under the yoke,” over whom the master has, or claims, the right of corporal punishment.

Will not be corrected by words — The proverb implies that where involuntary servitude exists, obedience and submission cannot be enforced by words alone. And such seems to have been the judgment of all men who have had to deal with it. All slave codes give the power of corporal punishment to the master; and even the most humane of masters acknowledge it to be sometimes necessary. Slavery takes away the ordinary motives for labour and faithfulness on the part of the servant, and the motive of fear needs to be appealed to in a greater degree. Moreover, slavery usually keeps its victims in a state of ignorance and degradation; mentally, in the state of children; and physically, in the condition of brutes, to be bought and sold, and otherwise treated without respect to their feelings, wishes, or interests.

Not answer — That is, in action — will not obey.


Verse 20

20. Very similar to Proverbs 26:12, which see.

Hasty in his words — Urgent to speak on all occasions, or rash, inconsiderate, in the use of words; voluble.


Verse 21

21. His son at the length — So most translators; but some render, “Contumacious, ungrateful.” The English text is generally followed. Patrick, as usual, combines the different senses thus: “Indulging him in too much ease, liberty, and familiarity, will make him saucy, if not contumacious; nay, to domineer and take upon him, as if he were a son, and perhaps endeavor to disinherit the heir of the family.” Two words in this verse are found nowhere else in the Bible, מפנק, (mephannek,) and מנון, (manon,) rendered son. Oriental servants might become heirs to the master’s property. Compare Genesis 15:3.


Verse 22

22. An angry man — An irritable or passionate man makes much trouble, and causes both himself and others to transgress. Comp. Proverbs 15:18; Proverbs 26:21; Proverbs 28:5; Job 22:29, 33; Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11.


Verse 23

23. Pride shall bring… low — See Proverbs 16:19; Proverbs 25:6. Honour shall uphold — The humble takes hold on, or retains, honour. So most commentators.


Verse 24

24. Partner with a thief — Divides with a thief, each taking part.

He heareth cursing — The curse against theft, (Leviticus 5:1,) or he hears the adjuration or oath administered to him.

Bewrayeth it not — Will not reveal the secret — will not inform — because he would implicate both himself and others. Comp. also Judges 17:2. “The explanation of the proverb is found in the Jewish method of dealing with theft. On the first discovery of the fact the person wronged, (as in Judges 17:2,) or the judge of the city, (as in Leviticus 5:1,) pronounced a solemn curse, alike on the thief himself and on all who, knowing the offence, were unwilling to give evidence against the wrong doer. The accomplice of the thief hears that curse and yet is silent, and so falls under it, and destroys his own soul.” — Speaker’s Commentary.


Verse 25

25. Fear… snare — Fear often makes men do that which is wrong, and thus brings them into difficulty or “a snare;” but confidence in Jehovah, his power, his protection, raises them above such fear.

Shall be safe — Shall be set on high; above danger, in a place of safety. A good man can dare to do right in the face of opposition, and in despite of fearful threats and certain death. There are many examples of this on record. Comp. Psalms 91:14; Psalms 107:41; Proverbs 18:10; 2 Samuel 14:15.


Verse 26

26. The ruler’s favour — Literally, the face of the ruler. Judgment —His sentence, the decision or determination of his cause. “This proverb may denote that the judicial sentence which the ruler gives depends upon God, who controls the disposition and will of rulers as he pleases; (comp. Proverbs 16:33; Proverbs 21:1;) also, that while many repair to rulers in order to obtain their favour by flattery, it is God only who will and can do perfect justice; and, more generally, that every man’s condition and success in life depend more upon the fear of God, than upon the favour of rulers.” — Muenscher. “Look more to Jehovah and less to rulers.” Compare Proverbs 19:6; 1 Kings 10:24.


Verse 27

27. Unjust… just — There is a perfect antipathy between virtue and vice. Comp. Psalm 39:14.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 29:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/proverbs-29.html. 1874-1909.

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