Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Proverbs 20:5

A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, But a man of understanding draws it out.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Cross-Questioning;   Prudence;   The Topic Concordance - Counsel;   Understanding;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Flattery;   Water;  
Dictionaries:
Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Purpose;   Water;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Pardon;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Proverbs, Book of;  
Encyclopedias:
The Jewish Encyclopedia - Deep;   Well;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Counsel in the heart of man - Men of the deepest and most comprehensive minds are rarely apt, unsolicited, to join in any discourse, in which they might appear even to the greatest advantage; but a man of understanding will elicit this, by questions framed for the purpose, and thus pump up the salubrious waters from the deep and capacious well. The metaphor is fine and expressive.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:5". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/proverbs-20.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

The contest between reticence on the one side and pertinacity in search on the other is represented as by a parable. The well may be very deep (compare the marginal reference), but the man of understanding” has enough skill to draw up the water even to the last drop. Every question is, as it were, a turning of the windlass.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:5". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/proverbs-20.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Proverbs 20:5

Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.

The getting of wisdom from the wise:

I. Wisdom to man is a very valuable thing.

1. It improves the sphere of his being.

2. It improves the power of his being.

II. Sane men are favoured with more wisdom than others. The difference in the amount of men’s intelligence arises from the difference in their capacities, proclivities, and opportunities for mental improvement.

III. Those who have the most wisdom are generally the most reserved. Where knowledge dwells in large quantities, it is not like water on the surface that you can get at easily; it is rather like water that lies fathoms under earth--clear, beautiful, and refreshing--got at only by the pump, or the windlass and bucket. It has to be drawn out.

IV. In consequence of this reservedness of the most wise, it requires sagacity in others to draw it forth. Even Christ Himself felt that He could not unfold what was in Him, on account of the ignorance and the prejudice of His auditory. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Proverbs 20:5". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/proverbs-20.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

"Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; But a man of understanding will draw it out."

"There is no moral content in this proverb. A man's real purpose may be hard to fathom. The allusion is to men's disposition to conceal their plans. A clever man will try to discover them by shrewd inquiries and guesses."[3] `Deep water,' as already noted, is an idiom for things mysterious or difficult to find out.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:5". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/proverbs-20.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water,.... Pure and undisturbed, but secret, hidden, and hard to be come at: such are the things of the spirit of a man, the thoughts of his mind, the devices of his heart; which, though easily known by the searcher of hearts, are not easily penetrated into by men; or it is not easily got out of them what is in them, especially in some men, who are very close and reserved. This is true of wicked men, who seek sleep to hide their counsel; and of good men, especially studious men, who have got a great deal of wisdom and knowledge in them, but not very communicative, being slow of speech, and silent in conversation;

but a man of understanding will draw it out; he will find ways and means to discover the secret designs of wicked men, whether against church or state; and, by asking proper questions, an understanding man will get out useful things from men of knowledge, the most reserved: some men must be pumped, and a good deal of pains must be taken with them, to get out anything of them, as in getting water out of a deep well, and which when got is very good; and so is that wisdom and knowledge which is gotten by an inquisitive man from another of superior knowledge, but not very diffusive of it.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:5". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/proverbs-20.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Counsel in the heart of c man [is like] deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.

(c) It is hard to find out: for it is as deep waters, whose bottom cannot be found: yet the wise man will know a man either by his words or manners.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:5". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/proverbs-20.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

water — that is, deeply hidden (Proverbs 18:4; Psalm 13:2). The wise can discern well.

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:5". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/proverbs-20.html. 1871-8.

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

5 The purpose in the heart of a man is deep water;

But a man of understanding draweth it out.

“Still waters are deep.” Like such deep waters (Proverbs 18:4) is that which a man hath secretly (Isaiah 29:15) planned in his heart. He keeps it secret, conceals it carefully, craftily misleads those who seek to draw it out; but the man of תּבוּנה, i.e., one who possesses the right criteria for distinguishing between good and bad, true and false, and at the same time has the capacity to look through men and things, draws out (the Venet . well, ἀνέλξει ) the secret עצה, for he penetrates to the bottom of the deep water. Such an one does not deceive himself with men, he knows how to estimate their conduct according to its last underlying motive and aim; and if the purpose is one that is pernicious to him, he meets it in the process of realization. What is here said is applicable not only to the subtle statesman and the general, but also the pragmatical historian and the expositor, as, e.g., of a poem such as the book of Job, the idea of which lies like a pearl at the bottom of deep water.

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The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
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Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:5". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kdo/proverbs-20.html. 1854-1889.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

A man's wisdom is here said to be of use to him for the pumping of other people, and diving into them, 1. To get the knowledge of them. Though men's counsels and designs are ever so carefully concealed by them, so that they are as deep water which one cannot fathom, yet there are those who by sly insinuations, and questions that seem foreign, will get out of them both what they have done and what they intend to do. Those therefore who would keep counsel must not only put on resolution, but stand upon their guard. 2. To get knowledge by them. Some are very able and fit to give counsel, having an excellent faculty of cleaving a hair, hitting the joint of a difficulty, and advising pertinently, but they are modest, and reserved, and not communicative; they have a great deal in them, but it is loth to come out. In such a case a man of understanding will draw it out, as wine out of a vessel. We lose the benefit we might have by the conversation of wise men for want of the art of being inquisitive.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
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Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Proverbs 20:5". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/proverbs-20.html. 1706.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.

Counsel — Designs of doing something of moment.

Deep water — Is secret and hard to be discovered.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:5". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/proverbs-20.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Proverbs 20:5 Counsel in the heart of man [is like] deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.

Ver. 5. Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water.] See Proverbs 18:4. As the red rose, though outwardly not so fragrant, is inwardly far more cordial than the damask rose, being more thrifty of its sweetness, and reserving it in itself; so it is with many good Christians.

But a man of understanding will draw it out.] And surely this is a fine skill to be able to pierce a man that is like a vessel full of wine, and to set him a running.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:5". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/proverbs-20.html. 1865-1868.

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

v. 5. Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, for his plans are hidden in his innermost heart; but a man of understanding, one who knows how to deal with men, will draw it out, he will judge the actions of men according to their motives and objects and draw the right conclusions.

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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:5". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/proverbs-20.html. 1921-23.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Proverbs 20:5. Counsel in the heart of man, &c.— There is hardly any thing but may be compassed by wisdom: for though the designs and intentions of another man, especially one who has a deep understanding, are as hard to be founded as waters which lie in the secret caverns of the earth; yet there are persons of such penetration, that they will find means to discover them, and draw them out. Lord Bacon observes, that there are six ways whereby the knowledge of men may be drawn out and disclosed; by their faces and countenances, by words, by deeds, by their nature, by their ends, and by the relations of others. See Adv. of Learn. book 8: chap. 2.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:5". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/proverbs-20.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Counsel; either,

1. Wisdom or ability to give good counsel; or,

2. Designs or purposes of doing something of moment; for this word is frequently used in both senses, but the last seems fittest here.

Is like deep water; either,

1. Is there in great abundance; or,

2. Is secret and hard to be discovered.

Will draw it out, by prudent questions and discourses, and a diligent observation of his words and actions.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Proverbs 20:5". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/proverbs-20.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

5.Counsel in the heart — The purposes, plans, which a man may form and keep secret.

Is like deep water — Difficult to be fathomed, or found out.

But a man of understanding — An intelligent, prudent, shrewd man.

Will draw it out — Will discover it. It may need to be gently and wisely drawn from him by sagacious inquiries, thus eliciting his secret designs.

The figure of thus “drawing out” the man’s plans is taken from the practice of drawing water from a deep well. Compare Proverbs 18:4; Exodus 2:16; Exodus 2:19; John 4:11.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:5". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/proverbs-20.html. 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Proverbs 20:5. Counsel in the heart of man — Either, 1st, Ability to give counsel; or, 2d, The design or purpose of doing something of importance; for the word עצה, here rendered counsel, is frequently used in both senses, but the latter seems most proper here; it is like deep water — Is there in great abundance, or is secret and hard to be discovered; but a man of understanding will draw it out — By prudent questions and discourses, and a diligent observation of his words and actions. In other words, “Though the designs and intentions of another man, especially one who hath a deep understanding, are as hard to be found out as waters which lie in the secret caverns of the earth; yet there are persons of such penetration, that they will find means to discover them and draw them out.” “There are six ways,” says Lord Bacon, in his Advancement of Learning, lib. 8. cap. 2, “whereby the knowledge of men may be drawn out and disclosed; by their faces and countenances, by words, by deeds, by their nature, by their ends, and by the relations of others.”

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:5". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/proverbs-20.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Out. So David discovered the meaning of the Thecuite, 2 Kings xiv. 18. A wise politician carefully examines everything in a foreign court.

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:5". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/proverbs-20.html. 1859.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.

Counsel in the heart of man (is like) deep water (the cunning of men's heart is like an unfathomable deep): but a man of understanding will draw it out - by the gift of discernment of spirits, and by tact in eliciting what is in the minds of other men.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:5". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/proverbs-20.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(5) Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water.—The wise thoughts of a “man,” fitly so-called (comp. Proverbs 18:4), may be hid deep in his breast, like the waters of a well, but a man of understanding knows how to draw them out as by a windlass and bucket (Exodus 2:16).

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:5". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/proverbs-20.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.
18:4; Psalms 64:6; 1 Corinthians 2:11
Reciprocal: 1 Samuel 20:12 - sounded;  Ezra 8:16 - men of understanding;  Romans 8:39 - depth

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:5". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/proverbs-20.html.

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Counsel. Delitzsch translates this word "purpose," and understands it to refer to a secret plan.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

DEEP SEA DREDGING

I. Much that is good, or much that is bad, may lie hidden in a man's heart without its existence being suspected by the majority of his acquaintance. The word here rendered counsel may be taken in a twofold sense. It may be used of knowledge, or of great mental ability, which is hidden either because its possessor is exceedingly modest or exceedingly reserved—either because he lacks the will or the power to make it known. Or it may refer to deeply-laid schemes or well-planned purposes which a man intends shall one day become facts, but which at present exist only in his own mind. And according to the nature of the counsel it may be compared to the wealth of beauty and riches which lie hidden in the depth of the ocean, unsuspected by the majority of those who sail above, or to the deadly torpedo which makes no ripple upon the surface of the water, and which its victims approach without dreaming of what is concealed beneath.

II. The difficulty of one man's obtaining what another wishes to conceal will depend upon the comparative wisdom of both. For many ages the deep sea seemed to defy all the efforts of man to explore its depths and to find out its secrets, but now even the ocean has to own him master in this respect, and to submit to have its treasures brought to light. There has been, as it were, a struggle between the sea and the man of science as to which should possess the treasures of the deep, and the issue has depended upon the ability of the man in comparison with the depth of the ocean. So there is sometimes a struggle between men—the one desiring to conceal his knowledge or his plans within his own breast, and the other desiring to discover them. The issue will depend upon the comparative mental power of the two men. If both be "men of understanding," the resistance on the one side and the effort on the other will be continuous and long, and the "deep waters" may prove too deep for the bucket or the dredging net. But if the balance of wisdom is in favour of the seeker—if there is one spot where his line can reach—he will "draw out" the counsel and proclaim himself the master.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

The whole emblem finely illustrates what is true of the "inward light" as held by the "Friends." All men have light which, if they would follow, would lead them (granting that they persevere) into the light of the gospel (Rom ). What better name for this than counsel? Alas! it lies "deep." No man will follow it but by the Spirit of God … Nevertheless it is there! How solemn that fact at the judgment day! "The word is nigh" (Rom 10:8). "A man of discernment," or "understanding," i.e., the Christian … Only the illuminated man, getting his light from its great fountain, will be moved to go down into his "heart," where the counsel lies waiting, and "draw" the "deep waters."—Miller.

Every question is, as it were, a turn of the windlass.—Plumptre.

He is an expert fisher … But man can but draw them out; God seeth them in the heart, man can see no more than he draws out, but God seeth all; man draws and labours for the knowledge he getteth, but all things are naked and open unto God's sight. Jermin.

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:5". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/proverbs-20.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Этот стих говорит о том, что мудрый человек вычерпывает мудрость из других людей и погружается в нее.

1. чтобы получить от них знания. Хотя люди так тщательно скрывают свои замыслы и планы, что подобны глубоким водам, которые никто не может измерить, в то же время есть такие, кто с помощью хитрых намеков и не относящихся к делу вопросов выуживают из них информацию о том, что они сделали и собираются сделать. Поэтому, чтобы сохранить свое намерение, мы должны быть не только тверды, но и бдительны.

2. чтобы с их помощью получить знания. Есть люди достаточно компетентные, чтобы дать совет, обладающие превосходной способностью проникать в суть вещей, распутывать узел проблем и уместно давать совет, но эти люди скромны, сдержанны и необщительны; они имеют много знаний, но неохотно делятся ими. В таком случае человек разумный вычерпывает их, как вино вычерпывают из сосуда. Из-за недостаточной любознательности мы теряет выгоду, которую могли бы иметь благодаря общению с мудрыми людьми.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
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Henry, Matthew. "Concise Commentary on Proverbs 20:5". "Matthew Henry Concise Commentary
>
>on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/proverbs-20.html. 1706.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Though many capable of giving wise counsel are silent, yet something may be drawn from them, which will reward those who obtain it.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Concise Commentary on Proverbs 20:5". "Matthew Henry Concise Commentary
>
>on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/proverbs-20.html. 1706.