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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
Proverbs 16:26

A worker's appetite works for him, For his hunger urges him on.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Hunger;   Industry;   Thompson Chain Reference - Appetites;   Power;   Self-Indulgence;   Self-Indulgence-Self-Denial;   The Topic Concordance - Labor;  
Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Pardon;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Proverbs, Book of;  

Clarke's Commentary

Verse Proverbs 16:26. He that laboureth — No thanks to a man for his labour and industry; if he do not work he must starve.

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Proverbs 16:26". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​acc/​proverbs-16.html. 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

Laying plans and making decisions (16:1-33)

A person may make plans, but God is the one who determines their outcome. He knows the person’s unseen motives and controls events according to his purposes. It is important, therefore, always to bring God into one’s planning (16:1-4). God punishes the arrogant but has mercy on those who fear him (5-6). He protects them from harm and guides them on the right pathway (7-9).
When a king’s wisdom comes from God, his decisions will be right. He will show no partiality but will punish evil, commend good, and insist that all trading practices be fair and honest (10-15). The person who is truly rich is not the one who has money, but the one who is wise, upright, humble, obedient and faithful (16-20).
Pleasant speech is not hypocritical if it springs from a pure heart. It benefits the speakers for it gives their words persuasiveness, and it benefits the hearers for it improves their minds (21-24). People can readily deceive themselves, but they cannot escape the plain fact that if they do not work they will go hungry (25-26). In contrast to the pleasant speech just mentioned, abusive speech, whispering and sly scheming create only trouble (27-30). Living uprightly guarantees honour in old age; controlling one’s passions guarantees strength; referring matters to God guarantees right decisions (31-33).

Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Proverbs 16:26". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bbc/​proverbs-16.html. 2005.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

"The appetite of the laboring man laboreth for him;

For his mouth urgeth him thereto.

A worthless man deviseth mischief;

And in his lips there is a scorching fire."

"His mouth urgeth him thereto" (Proverbs 16:26). The need to earn a living inspires men to work.

"An ungodly man diggeth up evil; and in his lips there is a burning fire."[27] "The description of agitators in this through Proverbs 16:30 needs little comment."[28] In this verse, the mischief maker is a gossip. The burning fire in his words is designed to burn up the reputations of other people.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Proverbs 16:26". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bcc/​proverbs-16.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

He that laboreth - literally, as in the margin, i. e., “The desire of the laborer labors for him” (or, helps him in his work), “for his mouth urges him on.” Hunger of some kind is the spring of all hearty labor. Without that the man would sit down and take his ease. So also, unless there is a hunger in the soul, craving to be fed, there can be no true labor after righteousness and wisdom (compare Matthew 5:6).

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Proverbs 16:26". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bnb/​proverbs-16.html. 1870.

Smith's Bible Commentary

Shall we turn now to Proverbs 16:1-33 , the sixteenth chapter and begin our study this evening.

The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD ( Proverbs 16:1 ).

God works in our lives even when we're not aware of it. If we're a child of God, God is continually working in our lives. It's amazing how many times we say things that we don't realize that at the time we are saying it, but actually it's a word from the Lord. It just comes up. God prepares your heart. The preparations of the heart, they're from God. In Philippians we read, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God that is working in you both to will and to do" ( Philippians 2:12-13 ). You see, God is planting now His law in the fleshly tablets of our heart, even as He promised to Jeremiah. "The day will come when I will no longer write my law on the tables of stone but in the fleshly tables of their heart." So God plants His Word, God plants His desires right in your heart, so the preparations of the heart are from the Lord. How great it is to be a child of God and to have your life submitted to the Lord so that the Lord is directing from that just inner kind of desires and all that He plants within your own heart.

Second proverb:

All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weighs the spirits ( Proverbs 16:2 ).

Now no matter what a guy does, it's right. "All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes." You can justify everything you've done. We're so full of excuses. "I did it because... " Even if it's wrong, we got a good reason or at least a good excuse. Of course, Benjamin Franklin said the man who is good with excuses is seldom good for anything else. "The ways of a man are clean in his own eyes, but God weighs the spirits." Now God knows the motives. God knows why I did it, the motive behind it, and that's what's important.

Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established ( Proverbs 16:3 ).

So many times we're worried that we haven't done enough. And probably correct. However, when we look at our service to God, we so often say, "Oh, but, you know, I should have done such a better job. You know, I... " Could you have done a better job? "No. I did the best I could." Well, that's all God expects. God doesn't expect more from you than what you can actually produce. So you've got to commit your works unto the Lord. Do your best and then just commit the rest. And your thoughts will be established.

"Well, you know, Lord, that's the best I can do. Sorry You have to use this kind of instrument to do Your work, Lord, but that's the way it is and that's all I can do." And I don't go home and worry, "Oh, could I have done this? Could I have done that? Oh, I should have done this. I should have done that." You just do your best and then you just place the rest in His hands. Your thoughts are then established. You rest. "Well, Lord, here it is, such as it is the best I can do." And you just commit your work to the Lord and your thoughts then are established. Just resting. Best I could do. "God, you know, use it if you can. It's my best."

This is an interesting and yet a difficult proverb to understand.

The LORD has made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil ( Proverbs 16:4 ).

Now the word evil, of course, is a reference to the judgment that is coming. There is a scripture in Isaiah that has brought a lot of problems to people, where God has declared that He has created evil. And they say, "Oh, how could God create evil?" The word actually is judgments. God has created the judgments that come upon the evil. So, "The Lord has made all things for Himself." "Thou has created all things, and for thy good pleasure they are and were created" ( Revelation 4:11 ). And God has even created the evil or the wicked. Now God didn't create them wicked, but He created wicked people. Can you catch the difference?

God created people; some of them are wicked. They don't have to be, but they are. God created them. You can't deny the fact that God created them. So in a sense, you can say God created the wicked. He didn't create them wicked, but He created the wicked. They became wicked. God created them. And He has actually created also the judgments that shall come upon those wicked persons.

Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD ( Proverbs 16:5 ):

One of those, another one of those which God has a lot of things that are an abomination to Him. Again, you need to take your concordance and go through the book of Proverbs and go through this word abomination and find out how many things are an abomination unto God. Now, I don't know exactly what an abomination is, but it sounds bad. And I know I don't want to be one.

Now, "The proud in heart are an abomination to the Lord." Oh, that pride. What a destroyer it is. We'll get to that in a minute.

and though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished ( Proverbs 16:5 ).

This "hand in hand" again, the striking of the hand, making a deal, it's usually a... in this case, joining hand in hand for strength, yet you can't escape the punishment.

By mercy and truth iniquity is cleansed ( Proverbs 16:6 ):

God's mercy and God's truth. You remember John in the opening remarks concerning Jesus Christ said, "For the law came by Moses, but grace and truth by Jesus Christ" ( John 1:17 ). Of course, grace and mercy are sister kind of words. Mercy and truth. Grace and truth. "By mercy and truth iniquity is cleansed."

and by the fear [or the reverence] of the LORD men depart from evil ( Proverbs 16:6 ).

Now the fear of the Lord is to hate evil. And so here, "By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil." There is a tremendous inconsistency; John points it out in his first epistle. He said, "He that saith he hath fellowship with God and walketh in darkness is lying" ( 1 John 1:6 ). He isn't telling the truth. You cannot walk in fellowship with God and have a desire and a love for evil. "By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil."

When a man's ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him ( Proverbs 16:7 ).

Thus, really the goal of each of our lives is and should be to be pleasing to God. Not what pleases you. Now usually we use as our standard, is it right or is it wrong? And trying to measure... and this was, of course, the mistake that the religious leaders in Judaism made concerning the law. Now what constitutes bearing a burden on the Sabbath day? What if you had false teeth? If you put your false teeth on on the Sabbath day, that means you're bearing a burden, doesn't it? You're carrying something that isn't natural to you. What about if you have a wooden leg? Sure, that's a burden so you can't put it on on the Sabbath day. And all of these little fine points, you know, they're trying to tune the fine points of right and wrong.

You can throw all of that out the window. The real question is: is it pleasing to God? Is God pleased with it? Because you may sit down and rationalize that a particular action, a particular thing that you want to do, you may rationalize and say, "Well, sure, look, it's all right," and give all of your rationale for why it's right. But it may not be pleasing to God. So really the rightness or the wrongness of a particular action isn't what really matters. What really matters is, does it really please the Lord? My life, I desire that my life be pleasing. Jesus said, "I do always those things that please the Father" ( John 8:29 ). Now, if you use that as your standard, you won't have to worry about right or wrong. You won't have to sit and examine the thing to see if it's really right or really wrong. Hey, does it please God? That's where it's at. "When a man's ways please the Lord, then the Lord makes even his enemies to be at peace with him."

Better is a little with righteousness, than great revenues without right ( Proverbs 16:8 ).

"A little that a righteous man hath is greater riches than many wicked" ( Psalms 37:16 ). Same concept.

A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps ( Proverbs 16:9 ).

How many times our plans have been changed by the Lord. We've decided we're going to do something, and God throws the monkey wrench in and stops us. I'm always sensitive to interruptions. Maybe God is trying to stop me. You know, the man who is expecting to be disturbed is the man who is never disturbed when disturbances come. If you are open to God and you think, "Well, Lord, any time I'm heading down a path You don't want, You just stop me." Therefore, I am expecting to be disturbed. Therefore, when the disturbance comes, it doesn't disturb me, because my life and my steps are committed to the Lord.

So we devise something in our heart, but God directs our steps. And I want it that way. I don't want to do my own will. I don't want to fulfill my own purposes. I want God to stop me whenever I am getting out of line and doing something that isn't from Him and directed by Him. I want the Lord to interrupt me. I want God to disturb me. I want God to direct my steps.

A divine sentence is in the lips of the king: his mouth transgresseth not in judgment ( Proverbs 16:10 ).

Now herein, of course, is a beautiful situation. When the king is a godly king, then God will direct his mouth, his lips and place, actually, God's sentences within his lips. And his mouth will not transgress. Will be faithful in judgment.

A just weight and balance are the LORD'S: all the weights of the bag are his work ( Proverbs 16:11 ).

Now, again, we'll get another proverb that deals with this pretty soon. All of their merchandising was done with the balanced scales. And so they would have little bags of weights. And the crooked merchant would have two bags of weights, divers weights: one that they would sell with, and one that they would buy with. So butchers have had their thumbs on the scales for years. Goes back to the time of Proverbs. Where in the balancing, they would use one set of weights to buy, and they would use another bag of weights to sell. It's an abomination unto the Lord. False balances, an abomination unto God. But the true, honest in business. "A just weight and balance are the Lord's, and all the weights of the bag are His work."

It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness: for the throne is established by righteousness ( Proverbs 16:12 ).

So those who are in leadership actually have a greater responsibility before God.

Righteous lips are the delight of kings; and they love him that speaks right. The wrath of the king is as messengers of death: but a wise man will pacify it. In the light of the king's countenance is life; and his favor is as a cloud of the latter rain ( Proverbs 16:13-15 ).

So here we have four proverbs that are related to each other because they all deal with kings. And inasmuch as none of you are kings, I don't know, maybe you are. You're the King's kids.

Now Solomon declares:

How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver! ( Proverbs 16:16 )

You remember when he started out, God said to Solomon, "Ask of Me whatever you desire," and Solomon prayed for wisdom. And God said, "In that you have asked for wisdom, you've asked for a good thing. And I will grant unto you wisdom. But I will also grant unto you that which you did not ask: riches and so forth." And so wisdom, understanding, these are more valuable than gold, treasure, silver.

The highway of the upright is to depart from evil: and he that keeps his way preserveth his soul ( Proverbs 16:17 ).

Then one that is very familiar, but so often misquoted. How many times you've heard people say, "Pride goeth before a fall." That's not a scripture. This is the scripture from which that quotation is taken, but it is misquoted.

Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall ( Proverbs 16:18 ).

So pride goes before destruction. That haughty spirit, going to be brought down. "Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord, He shall lift thee up" ( James 4:10 ). "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted; he that exalteth himself shall be abased" ( Matthew 23:12 ).

Better it is to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud ( Proverbs 16:19 ).

So a couple of them that deal with pride and humility.

He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the LORD, happy is he ( Proverbs 16:20 ).

How neat it is to just have your trust in the Lord. Happy man. You're not really disturbed by the circumstances of life. My trust is in God. Happy is he.

The wise in heart shall be called prudent: and the sweetness of the lips increaseth learning. Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him that hath it: but the instruction of fools is folly ( Proverbs 16:21-22 ).

So understanding. "With all of thy getting, get understanding" ( Proverbs 4:7 ), David said to Solomon. It's a wellspring of life to him who has it. Oh God, grant to us a better understanding. I think to have understanding is so important, because I think it is the key to compassion. There are many people in many circumstances in which we find it difficult to be compassionate.

In operating summer camps, which I did for years and years, you get those kids that are just behavioral problems. I've had the counselors come in and say, "You better get that kid out of my group or I'm going to kill him. He's horrible. You know, he's just screaming at night and always creating problems. I can't stand that kid. Get him out of there before you have to carry him out. Going to do something rash." And so I'll bring the little kid in and I'll sit him down and, of course, you know, he has to go to Chuck. And he comes in all trembling, and you know here he is. Like I'm going to be a monster. And I'll go over and buy him an ice cream bar and sit him down and start talking, asking him, you know, about his home, about his background. Little kid will start unfolding the story how his dad, he never sees him. Doesn't know where he is. Comes home, his mom's usually drunk. Different men in the house who yell at him and tell him to get out of there, and all this kind of stuff. Man, you get the background stories of some of these little guys and you can't believe it! It's horrible. And then I'll call the counselor back in and I said, "Do you realize that this is what happens when this little kid goes home and this is what the situation is?" "Oh, wow." We have a whole changed attitude towards him. Now you understand why he's fighting everybody. Man, this little kid has to fight for survival. And as you understand now the background, now you can have compassion, and now you can deal with him, and now you can minister to him.

Understanding is such an important thing. Ezekiel said, "I sat where they sat" ( Ezekiel 3:15 ). And you really need to sit in another man's place for a while to really understand that other person. I think one of the keys to relationship is to put yourself in the other person's position. We have so many labor problems. Well, if you could reverse roles, if management could sit where labor is, and if labor could sit where management is, you could remove so many of these labor problems. The management would understand that this guy has to have a decent wage to live. But also this guy would understand that management has to have a profit to survive.

If a wife could sit where her husband sits, and if a husband could sit where his wife sits, how many problems this would solve. When he comes home at night, just all frazzled from the pressures and the hassles that he's had all day, and sits down and just wants to turn on TV, and just tune out for a while, and he's uncommunicative to his wife, well, if she could just understand the pressures, the hassles he's had. On the same token, if he could just be with those kids all day long and be communicating to them, he'd understand the wife's need to communicate on a different level when he gets home. "And I sat where they sat." Understanding, understanding the other person's position is so important, really, to compassion, to love. "It's a wellspring of life to him who has it." Oh God, grant that we might have better understanding.

The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips ( Proverbs 16:23 ).

So the heart is the issue of life.

Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, health to the bones ( Proverbs 16:24 ).

Now, I don't know if the scientists have ever made any relationship between honey and the bones, but it's sweet to the soul, honey, and health to the bones. What are they? Pleasant words. Oh, just cheerful words, pleasant words. How good they are.

There is a way that seemeth right unto man, but the end thereof are the ways of death ( Proverbs 16:25 ).

I think of so many people today who are deceived by false prophets, who are deceived by false religious systems. They're convinced that they are right. "There is a way that seems right unto man, but the end of it" ( Proverbs 14:12 ). There's another scripture, "Every man's way is right in his own eyes" ( Proverbs 21:2 ). But here, "There is a way that seems right." The way of life, you know. The philosophy of life that a man has chosen. It seems to be right. Eat, drink and merry. Tomorrow we die, you know. And you talk to that guy and he's convinced that his philosophy is correct. "But the end thereof, the way of death."

He that laboreth, laboreth for himself; for the mouth craves it of him ( Proverbs 16:26 ).

It's a thing that your labor goes to feed yourself.

An ungodly man digs up evil: and in his lips there is a burning fire ( Proverbs 16:27 ).

Actually, James says, "Behold, what a great fire such a little matter kindleth! And the tongue is like a fire" ( James 3:5-6 ). The things that it can enflame.

A perverse man sows strife: and a whisperer can separate the best of friends. A violent man entices his neighbor, and leads him into the way that is not good. He shuts his eyes to devise perverse things: moving his lips he brings evil to pass. Now the hoary head [which is the gray, the hoary frost, the white hair] is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness ( Proverbs 16:28-31 ).

I think that one of the worst things in the world is a dirty old man. You know when people get old and gray-headed, they're supposed to all be sweet and kind and loving. After all, they're getting towards the end, and so you ought to be mellow. And to see a little old gray-hair lady using four-letter words and all that kind of... it just, it's just wrong. It's out of place.

My daughter used to work for a medical supply firm and she had to deliver some things to this little old lady in the hospital. And she walked in and saw her and thought, "Oh, what a sweet-looking little old lady." And then this lady you know says, "Who the hell are you? And what are you doing here?" And just started all this filthy language. And it's just somehow incongruent; it's just out of place. "The gray hair is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness." But man, if it's not.

He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit is better than he that takes a city ( Proverbs 16:32 ).

How important it is. Slow to anger, ruling our own spirits. Important.

The lot is cast into the lap ( Proverbs 16:33 );

Now it's a... the lot is a thing whereby they would oftentimes determine. You know, it's like drawing a straw. They would cast lots into their lap.

but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD ( Proverbs 16:33 ).

Trying to get guidance or direction or to determine, they cast lots. But the real direction, the disposing of the thing comes from God. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Proverbs 16:26". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​csc/​proverbs-16.html. 2014.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

1. Trusting God ch. 16

In this chapter, there is also a slight change in the form of the proverbs. Solomon expressed the earlier proverbs (chs. 10-15) mainly in antithetical parallelisms, but the proverbs in this section are mainly synonymous and synthetic parallelisms. Instead of the key word being "but" it now becomes "and."

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Proverbs 16:26". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/​proverbs-16.html. 2012.

Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

He that laboureth, laboureth for himself,.... Man is born for labour; it is a part of the curse inflicted on him for sin; and his condition and circumstances are such as make it necessary, for such who will not work ought not to eat; and it is labouring for food and raiment which is here meant, and that is for a man's self; for if he labours to be rich and lay up money, and purchase estates, these are more for others than himself, and indeed he knows not for whom he labours. It is indeed in the original, "the soul of him that labours l, labours for himself"; and it may be understood of the labour of, the soul for spiritual things, for spiritual food, for that meat which endures to everlasting life; and may intend the various exercises of religion in which men employ themselves, that they may have food for their souls, and grow thereby; such as praying, reading the Scriptures, attending on the ministry of the word and ordinances: and this labouring is for themselves; for the good and welfare of their immortal souls, for their spiritual prosperity, for the nourishing of them up unto everlasting life. It may be applied to Gospel ministers, who labour in the Lord's vineyard, in the word and doctrine; and though in the first place they labour to promote the glory of God and the interest of Christ, and the good of souls, yet it also turns to their own account; and indeed they labour to be accepted of the Lord, and at last shall hear, "Well done, good and faithful Servant; enter into the joy of thy Lord", Matthew 25:23. Some render the words, "he that is troublesome is troublesome to himself" m, as such an one is, not only to others, but to himself also; he is the cause of great disquietude to his own mind;

for his mouth craveth it of him: that he should labour, in order to satisfy his appetite; for "all the labour of man is for his mouth", to feed that and fill his belly, Ecclesiastes 6:7; or "his mouth boweth unto him" n; it is as it were an humble supplicant to him, entreating: him to labour to get food for it, and satisfy its wants; or as a beast bows down to feed itself; or "boweth upon him" o; it obliges him, as the Vulgate Latin version; it compels him, whether he will or not, to work, its necessities are so pressing: and this holds good in spiritual things; a man's mouth, or spiritual appetite, puts him upon the use of means of spiritual exercises, without which he must otherwise be in a starving condition; and is true of the ministers of the word, whose mouth obliges them; as it were; they cannot but speak the things they have heard and seen: or "his mouth reflects upon him"; upon the man that has been troublesome to himself and others; the Targum is,

"for from his mouth humiliation shall come to him;''

or his destruction, as the Syriac version.

l נפש עמל "anima laborantis", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, Piscator, Mercerus, Gejerus, Michaelis; "anima laboriosi", Cocceius. m "Ipse molestus molestiam affert sibi", Junius Tremellius. n אכף עליו פיהו "incurvavit se ei os suum", Pagninus "incurvat se ei os suum"; Mercerus, Gejerus. o "Inflexit se super eum os suum", Montanus; "innititur super cum", Vatablus.

Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 16:26". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​geb/​proverbs-16.html. 1999.

Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

      26 He that laboureth laboureth for himself; for his mouth craveth it of him.

      This is designed to engage us to diligence, and quicken us, what our hand finds to do, to do it with all our might, both in our worldly business and in the work of religion; for in the original it is, The soul that labours labours for itself. It is heart-work which is here intended, the labour of the soul, which is here recommended to us, 1. As that which will be absolutely needful. Our mouth is continually craving it of us; the necessities both of soul and body are pressing, and require constant relief, so that we must either work or starve. Both call for daily bread, and therefore there must be daily labour; for in the sweat of our face we must eat, 2 Thessalonians 3:10. 2. As that which will be unspeakably gainful. We know on whose errand we go: He that labours shall reap the fruit of his labour; it shall be for himself; he shall rejoice in his own work and eat the labour of his hands. If we make religion our business, God will make it our blessedness.

Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Proverbs 16:26". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​mhm/​proverbs-16.html. 1706.
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