The Book Of Proverbs: Part I
The Fear Of The LORD-Hear Him.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (1:7)
Solomon delivered his proverbs that others might know and perceive the way of wisdom (vv.1-2) Wisdom must be received (v.3), which is why the fear of the LORD is the beginning. He is the source, the first axiom of all thought. Wisdom is more than just information-it is knowledge with understanding. Ethics is inescapable. Wisdom includes “justice, judgment, and equity.” (v.3) Wisdom is about how to live life. Prudence is knowledge with discretion (v.4) “A wise man will hear and increase in learning-again-it must be received. This is the only way to “attain wise counsel.” (v.5) There is no other way to understand an enigma or the riddles of the wise. (v.6) One must begin with the fear of the LORD. Don’t be like the fool who despises wisdom and instruction. This is the way of those who begin with something other than the word of God. Hear Him!
Parental Counsel-A Graceful Ornament.
My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother; for they will be a graceful ornament on your head, and chains about your neck. (Prov. 1:8-9)
I think it is wise to question the “place” that some in the reformed community have placed women. Solomon, with all his caution about the seductress, nevertheless views wisdom as a beautiful woman. One fears that parental instruction is largely patriarchal in some so-called reformed circles. God has a different perspective. Any son or daughter should listen and heed father and mother both. The commandment is “honor your father and your mother” (Dt. 5:16). It was just such instruction that parents were commanded by God to pass on to their children (Dt. 4). Not to heed the instruction of one’s father or the law of one’s mother, when they are teaching what is faithful to the LORD, is to fail to truly honour them.
Don’t Own Greed.
My son, do not walk in the way with them, keep your foot from their path. (Prov. 1:15)
There is a recognizable way or path of those given to greed. Like a trail through a field or forest, or a path through the snow, it gives itself away. Wisdom is often a caution sign, but sometimes it just says ‘Stop!” Here wisdom comes by means of a command, with reasons attached. Of course, the LORD need not give reasons, but He often does. A child’s first question is often-“why”?
The behavior here stems from the breaking of the 10th commandment, with counsel to break the 8th and likely the 6th, and since this is parental counsel against such action a breaking of the 5th also. However, there is an interesting principle found here and throughout the wisdom literature, and indeed the whole of scripture, which is, a person ultimately reaps what they sow. Following this path, in the long run, leads to destruction. “But they lie in wait for their own blood, they lurk secretly for their own lives. So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; it takes away the life of its owners.” (Prov. 1:18-19) Therefore, don’t own greed-it has only one end.
Wisdom At The Gate.
The open squares, chief concourses, and gates of the city speaks to the centres of business and government. In these places wisdom cries out. Who will listen? Not the simpletons-they love their “simplicity”. Not the scornful-they love their scorning. Not the fool-they hate knowledge. Beware of the simpletons who scorn and hate knowledge. Wisdom is humbling. Wisdom rebukes. But true religion is not man seeking out a god, it is God revealing Himself to man. Without God’s Spirit His word cannot be “known.” (v.23) It is God’s counsel which the simpleton disregards and disdains. (vv.24-25) Men don’t like to be rebuked.
Wisdom laughs, indeed mocks at such stupidity. When calamity comes to the foolish it comes like a whirlwind blowing away the chaff of their foolish confidence. In the storm they will cry out-the proverbial foxhole religion-but God is silent. “Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD.” (v.29) We have heard this before-1:7. Men make choices, and ideas have consequences. The wise are those who fear the LORD and receive His counsel. The foolish “shall eat the fruit of their own way.” (v.31) Two ways, two counsels, two ends. “But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil.” (v.33) Don’t be complacent (v.32). Who are you listening to?
Proverb 2: Covenant Keepers.
Spiritual or wise people, according to scripture, don’t come at this knowledge on their own. Wisdom is received (vv. 1,6)). Attitude makes a difference. Wisdom must be sought for as one might search for treasure (v.4). Application also is required (v.2). The fear of the LORD is it’s beginning (v. 5). Wisdom is more than information, it is about understanding, righteousness, and justice (vv. 7-9).
Wisdom must enter the heart-the core of one’s being, and be pleasant to the soul (v. 10). Knowledge that is surface and merely tolerated is not the way of the wise. Wisdom involves discretion and understanding (v. 11). Wisdom delivers from perverse speech and dark, devious, and crooked ways (vv. 12-15), such as that of the immoral woman (vv. 16-19).
The wise are covenant keepers (v. 17). There are two paths in life-one leads to death the other to life (vv. 18-19). The way of wisdom is the way of goodness, righteousness, and life (vv. 19-20). But it isn’t just heaven that is the prize of the wise. The upright and blameless will dwell and remain in the land. The wicked and unfaithful, on the other hand, will be uprooted and cut off from the earth (vv. 21-22).
Proverbs 3: Written On The Heart.
In this chapter is found one of the most often quoted passages in scripture. But what does vv. 5-6 mean in the context of this chapter and book. “My son do not forget my law.” (v. 1) Sadly this is the chief sin of the church today-she has forgotten God’s law. It is worse than forgetfulness as we might imagine. It is outright repudiation. Only those who keep His commands will find long life and peace (v.2), health and strength (v. 8) God’s law is mercy and truth (v.3). Favour and esteem is the ultimate estimate for those who keep them. This is what it means to “trust in the LORD with all your heart.” (v. 5)
This is the opposite of leaning on one’s own understanding. His law is the whole of His word, and as always, it is the first axiom of all thought and existence. God’s law is the life blood of the godly. Those who reject God’s law are wise in their own eyes. They claim not to need His revelation-their own musings are sufficient enough. The godly, on the other hand, “fear the LORD and depart from evil.” (v.7) What is written on your heart (v.3)?
First Things (Proverbs 3:9ff.).
There is blessing to those who give of their first things to the LORD (vv. 9-10), and out of love he corrects (vv. 11-12). If you are anything like me, you need correction for failing on the former. Wisdom makes one happy (v. 13). What makes you happy? Wisdom is better than silver, gold, or rubies, “and all things you may desire.” (v. 14-15) With wisdom comes the riches but also honour and a long life of pleasantness and peace (vv. 16-18). By wisdom the LORD created all things (vv. 19-20). Safety and security accompany wisdom, and through wisdom one’s confidence is in the LORD (vv. 21-26).
The wise not only give to the LORD they also give to those in need (v. 27-28). A wise person is someone a neighbor can trust (v. 29). A wise person is one with whom others can live among in peace (v. 30). As always, the scriptures only present two ways through life-that of the wicked and that of the just-a curse on the former and blessing on the latter. The former is scorned while the latter receive grace (vv. 31-34). The just are humble because they know their need for grace. Glory is their inheritance, while shame “the legacy of fools.” (v. 35) What will be our legacies?
Proverbs 4: Keep Your Heart.
“Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom, and in all your getting, get understanding.” (v.7) Good doctrine is wise. Law is wise. (v. 2) Wisdom is “an ornament of grace.” (v. 9) Wisdom is a way of life, a long life. (vv. 10-13) Wickedness is also a way of life (vv. 14-17). Two ways-one of ever increasing light to perfection, the other of darkness and stumbling. Wisdom is the way of sanctification, but the words of the wise must dwell in the heart. (20-23) The way of wisdom is also straight forward, and one’s words are in harmony with the heart. (v.24)
It is a common theme in the scriptures that the godly ask for a straight clear path to follow. Wisdom keeps one from being hindered or stumbling in this walk. (v.12) For the just, this path of wisdom gets clearer as one moves on. It is the way of sanctification which leads to perfection. More light equals less stumbling. (vv. 18-19) “Let your eyes look straight ahead…and let all your ways be established.” (vv. 25-26) But it all starts in the heart. (v.23) Being straight and clear speaks to integrity, part of being right or righteous. The heart, the words, and the way of the just “shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.” (v.18)
Proverbs 5: Pay Attention.
Two paths, yet again. The words of the adulterous are smooth but the end is poverty and death. It is the way of those who hate instruction and despise correction (v.12). Better not to go near her door (v.8). The wise rejoice in their own spouse (v. 18). The wise know that God sees and ponders a person’s path in life (v. 21). For the godly this is in fact a great comfort. The wicked, on the other hand, are “caught in the cords” of their sin (v. 22). Actions have consequences. The wicked “die for lack of instruction.” (v. 23) Better to pay attention to wisdom and understanding, preserve discretion and knowledge.
Proverbs 6: The Heart Devises.
Shaking hands is as good as a signature and words spoken are as collateral. One must beware of the consequences. (vv. 1-5) A wise person doesn’t need someone to tell or prod them that one has to work for a living. (vv. 6-11) The wicked are the opposite-their words are deceptive and their actions are duplicitous. (vv. 12-15) Put the two together and you have a busybody or one who sows discord. (vv. 16-19) A wise child will follow the commands and laws of their parents (vv. 20-22), but these are only as good as the source. (v. 23 cf. Dt. 6:1-2)
For example, going to the adulterous is like embracing fire (vv. 24-29). People can understand why one might steal to satisfy one’s hunger-though the consequences are still great. “Restore sevenfold” speaks to the complete restitution of the law. (v. 31 cf. Ex. 22:1-4; Lev. 26:21-25) But “whoever commits adultery with a women lacks understanding; he who does so destroys his own soul.” (v. 32) We live in a culture that says that all jealousy is wrong, but the scripture speaks otherwise. (vv. 33-35) The “day of vengeance” at the very least, could be the day of divorce, the execution of “the vengeance of the covenant.” (Lev. 26: 25)
Proverbs 7: Written On The Tablet Of The Heart.
The child of God keeps His words, treasures His commands, and lives. God’s law is the apple of their eye, that is, the centre or core of their attention. (vv. 1-2) Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.” (v. 3) Embracing wisdom will keep one from the immoral ones. (vv. 4-5) Accept wisdom as a member of the family unlike the harlot who is not satisfied with home. (v.11) She calls it love (v. 18), but it is only hatred and death (vv. 23, 26-27). What is written on the tablet of our hearts? The path of life is the path of God’s law. Those who hate His law hate wisdom and love death.
Proverbs 8: Where The Paths Meet.
Wisdom is not silent at the points of decision-where the paths meet (v. 1), and judgments are made (v.2). To those who will listen, wisdom gives prudence and an understanding heart-the core of who we are (vv. 4-5, 12). Only what is true and right is excellent, and it should not go unnoticed that the bible affirms that there is such a thing as truth and right. Wisdom is inseparable from ethics. Wickedness also is the opposite reality. What one thinks has consequences for how one lives (vv. 6-7). To those who cherish biblical wisdom more than gold, silver, or rubies the path is plain and straight, and the riches greater but include the former (vv. 8-11, 18-21).
Love and hate both meet, but unlike wickedness, the choice is not here. Those who love God and love wisdom, must hate what He hates. Wisdom says, “the fear of the LORD is to hate evil; pride arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate.” (v. 13) The choice is not between love and hate, but between truth and right on the one side, and evil, wickedness, and the perverse mouth on the other. The perverse mouth is that which is deceitful (Prov. 4:24), the very opposite of truth and right. The question is do we love what is true and right, and hate what is perverse and deceitful. Only those who love wisdom will find it (v. 17).
Counsel, understanding, and strength are found with wisdom. This is why it is found among those who make judgments at the places of decision (vv. 15-16). “I traverse the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of justice.” (v.20) God spoke and all creation came into being, and wisdom came before all this (vv. 22-31). Man is not wise by first observing the world as some great pool of evidentiary material. True wisdom finds its seat in the Divine mind. God’s thought is the first axiom of all thought and existence. Human beings can but receive. We must listen to God speak to us wisdom. Blessing will thus attend to those who watch and wait (vv. 32-34). Whoever finds this wisdom finds life, and honour from the LORD. But those who hate this wisdom love death (35-36). Love and hate are inseparable on both sides of the great divide.
Proverbs 9: A Complete House.
Wisdom is a complete house fully furnished established on seven pillars. Wisdom is for the simple who lack understanding. Those who follow it live. (vv. 1-6) Those who are wise will be wiser still and will love the giver-the scoffer will hate it. (vv. 7-9) “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (v. 10) Biblical wisdom is inseparable from a heart devoted to the Holy One. Wisdom will always benefit the receiver, including long life. (vv. 11-12) The foolish also cry out to be heard. The fool thinks that they can gain in life through theft and deception. But the end of the foolish is death and hell. (vv. 13-18) Two houses and two paths. Choose the path of wisdom and live.
Proverbs 10:1 A Wise Child Makes The Father Glad.
A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is the grief of his mother.
Most parents invest a lot in their children, but for believers they are most happy to know that their children are wise. Wisdom means that they fear the covenant LORD-in other words, they too are believers. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” (9:10 cf. 1:7) Moreover, a wise child lives by the wise counsel of their godly parents-it is the chains and ornaments of their instruction which they wear. (1:8-9) Mercy and truth mark their character and long life is before them (3:1-8), and they bring joy to their parents (17:21; 29:3). The foolish child, on the other hand, brings grief, sorrow, bitterness, ruin, and shame, because they despise their parents and their instruction. (cf. 15:20; 17:21, 25; 19:13; 29:15)
Once again we see that the way of wisdom is the way of God’s law. “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you , that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you.” Dt. 5:16 It is these very commands which the LORD God instructed His redeemed people to keep and to pass on to their children. Those who reject and despise His law are foolish children who ultimately despise the LORD God Himself. It goes without much explanation that there is a great deal of foolishness in the visible church that needs to also be repented of. Keep God’s law and you will bring joy to your parents and enjoy blessings, prosperity, and a long life of faithful and happy service. A wise child of God brings the Father gladness!
Proverbs 10:2-3 Righteousness Delivers From Death.
Treasures of wickedness profit nothing, but righteousness delivers from death. The LORD will not allow the righteous soul to famish, but He casts away the desire of the wicked.
It would seem from the parallelism here that Solomon is speaking of the deliverance of the soul from death. We find the same truth expressed in Psalm 49:6-9. “Those who trust in their wealth and boast in the multitude of their riches, none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him-for the redemption of their souls is costly, and it shall cease forever-that he should continue to live eternally, and not see the Pit.” For those who trust in themselves there is a day of eternal death, a day of wrath from which only the righteous will be delivered. “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.” (Prov. 11:4) But where does this righteousness come from?
Jesus would command again, many years later, to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33 cf. 16:26) Only God’s righteousness can deliver the soul from death. The psalmist knew this. “But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave.” (49:15) Only the Son could provide such a costly ransom. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (I Tim. 2:5-6) “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death.” (Hosea 13:14) “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (I Cor. 15:55)
Forced Labour Or Fulfilling A Dream – 10:4-5; 12:24; 13:4; 21:5.
There is no substitute for hard work (Proverbs 10:4-5). It makes the difference between poverty and riches. (cf. 19:15; 6:8) However, there is a season for everything. It is important to adapt. The wise recognize that there are seasons in every line of work. A farmer isn’t going to harvest in the middle of winter, and every calling has it’s seasons. However, it is also important to plan. Those who plan create the seasons that others miss (21:5). Everyone wants riches of some sort, but acting in haste is no substitute for proper planning. Those who act in haste end up following those who create the opportunities. Desire is not enough (13:4). The lazy will not get what they desire, but will be consigned to forced labour (12:24). Do you have a dream? If you don’t work at, adapt, and plan for what your heart desires, you will be working for those who do.
10:6-8 Competing Words.
Blessings rest upon and are the sure memory of the righteous. The wicked, on the other hand, live with violence and are remembered for this as they rot. Violence which “covers the mouth” speaks to the ultimate violence here-the spoken word. The ultimate violence which the wicked do is a violence against the word of God. Life is a matter of competing speech and conflicting words. The bible only speaks of two peoples. Those who follow the words of men and those who follow the word of God. How will we be thought of and remembered? As Solomon pointed out in Eccl. 8:10, the wicked are ultimately forgotten. On the other hand, “the righteous will be in everlasting remembrance.” (Ps. 112:6)
May that memory be one of faithfulness to the word of God and a life in harmony with it. “The wise in heart will receive commands.” Note well, when the bible speaks of the heart it speaks to one’s core-not emotions or will contrasted with the intellect etc. So what makes one wise to the core? The answer is commands received. Wisdom can only come by way of God’s revealing his mind to us through His word. Commands aren’t just opinions or suggestions that He gives. The wise in heart are governed by His law–word to the core. The so-called “Christian” who denies the inerrant law-word is a fool who will fall with the wicked.
Proverbs 10:9-21 Love Or Hate, Life Or Death.
Words of life or words of violence and destruction-these are competing words (vv.10:11, 14). Life and death are in view (v.21). Words of life come from those who keep instruction (v.17). Wise people receive words of correction-the wicked refuse and go astray. The words of the wicked are many, but talking longer doesn’t change the heart (vv. 19-20). The wise will restrain speech in favour of wisdom-silver in a sea of dross. Such speech comes from those who have understanding (v.13). The wicked fool who refuses correction, ends up with the rod of punishment. Lying lips and slander is just hatred spoken (v.18). The labor of the righteous also leads to life, but that of the wicked to sin (v.16).
It is all about what is in the heart or core of a person. “The heart of the wicked is worth little.” (v.20) “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.” (v.12) Wisdom is not always about speaking everything-no matter how truthful. “He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends.” (Prov. 17:9) Sometimes wisdom dictates words which can cover sin-the silver words of forgiveness. Those with integrity walk secure, but those who are perverted will eventually be exposed (v.9). Choose love over hate. Choose life over death. Choose integrity over a perverted way. “The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of wisdom.” (v.21) Be one who feeds others with the words of life.
Proverbs 10:22 Blessing Without Sorrow.
Verse 22 is always good to keep in mind especially when reading verses like 10:15. Both are true of course. We are reminded of where wealth comes from. Blessing is being rich without sorrow. Abraham (Gen. 24:35), and Isaac (Gen. 26:12), were so blessed. It is a blessing to all with whom God establishes His covenant (Dt. 8:18 See ‘The New Geneva Study Bible’ references.) What was promised to Israel and the patriarchs was always meant to direct us to the whole earth. “For those blessed by Him shall inherit the earth, but those cursed by Him shall be cut off.” (Psalm 37:22) These are covenantal terms and consequences. Solomon has already made this point. “That I may cause those who love me to inherit wealth, that I may fill their treasuries.” (Prov. 8:21) David’s greater Son would re-iterate the same point. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Mt. 5:5) The gospel of the kingdom involves more than just heaven. The wise are those who live in the covenant blessings of the LORD and thus know where true riches come from.
Proverbs 10:23-32 Two Ways-Two Ends.
The biblical writers never tire of reiterating a common theme, and this is especially so in the wisdom literature. The wise do well to take note-it is an anecdote to living a life of blessing and peace. People will reap what they sow. The fool thinks that following their evil desires is just a game, but in fact what they fear will come upon them. The life of the wicked looks like party time, but when the winds of what is real come they disappear like smoke. The wicked fool lives for the moment, but the righteous has an everlasting foundation. When the storms of life come the righteous remain secure, and will do so for all eternity. (vv.23-25)
Two ways have two ends. Those who fear the LORD will have a long life and eternal blessing. The wicked’s life is short and they will never achieve their expectations. The righteous, on the other hand, will find gladness. The LORD Himself is our strength. It is not as though the wicked get the earth and the righteous heaven. “The righteous will never be removed, but the wicked will not inhabit the earth.” (v. 30) The wicked are lazy and nothing but an irritant and embarrassment to those who send them (v. 26), and out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The righteous speaks forth acceptable wisdom with integrity, but the wicked can only speak that which is perverse. (vv. 26-32)
Proverbs 11:1 Honest Scales.
“Dishonest scales are an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is His delight.”
Wisdom, in many ways, is simply the practical application of God’s law. Many claim to have a philosophy and politic of justice-but it is not a biblical justice. The biblical definition of justice is that which has integrity-a weight on a scale that is true-a person gets exactly what they deserve. We are not talking grace here. It is not the place of the market and least of all politicians, to tip the scales in what they favour. Unmerited favour belongs to God. This is the point. Men, in rebellion to God’s standard of justice, want to play God and tip the scales, as it were.
When governments ceased backing their currency with the gold standard, they began the process of “dishonest scales.” But this was only the necessary beginning to their enterprise. It was the first necessary step to legalized political theft on a grand scale-pun intended. The entire welfare state is a messianic attempt to usurp God’s standard of justice. To this end they assumed the responsibility to indoctrinate succeeding generations into the same system of greed and envy on a cultural scale. What few would ever accept on a personal or business level is deemed acceptable by the state-but with the force of law and sword.
Dylan was prescient when he wrote that we have lawbreakers making rules-but the scriptures are more prescient still. God laid down the law of honest business-Lev. 19:35-36; Duet. 25:13-16. Those who have dishonest weights, including governments-are an abomination to the LORD-detestable! “Diverse weights and diverse measures, they are both alike, an abomination to the LORD.” (Prov. 20:10) “And dishonest scales are not good.” (Prov. 20:23) Where are the Christians who say that God’s law is not applicable today-and certainly not in society at large? We would have a truly just society if men would heed God’s law and God’s wisdom! His law-word alone is the sole standard of what is just and fair. “Shall I count pure those with the wicked scales, and with the bag of deceitful weights?” Who is going to be left holding the bag?
Proverbs 11:2 Wisdom Resides With The Humble.
Wisdom resides with the humble. The reason for this is that the humble recognize that true wisdom only comes from God. This is in consequence of the truth that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Humility may be seen also as the middle and end. It is pride in one’s own thoughts apart from God that leads to a downfall and shame (cf. 16:18; 18:12; 29:23).
Proverbs 11:3-6 Integrity As Our Guide.
Integrity is the hallmark of the upright. “What you see is what you get,” but with righteousness. Imagine a navigator as a guide with instruments not true. One will get lost more often than they will get lucky. Integrity is having oneself calibrated or tuned to give a clear note in one direction. When folks deal with someone who has integrity they don’t get conflicting messages. Meeting someone who has integrity is like knowing you are sure to get home and the sound will be harmoniously sweet. The wicked are just the opposite-they’re way is perverted or set off course, and out of tune-they are unfaithful.
Only those who are true or blameless will get to where they want to go. Righteousness in fact speaks to integrity-right to the core. It is the righteousness of the upright that gives them direction and deliverance. The idea here seems to be one of a common theme in the wisdom literature and elsewhere, wherein one is ultimately caught by their own devices. What integrity or righteousness is to the upright, lust is to the unfaithful. There are many applications one can envision here, but suffice it to say, one who is caught by lust is not one who can be trusted! We should be men and women of integrity whom others can trust, and through whom God is glorified.
Proverbs 11:7-11 Personal Character Matters To Others.
Here again is a basic principle-a person will ultimately get what they wished for others, a person will reap what they sow. The wicked seek to bring trouble to the righteous. It is probably best to see verse 7 in this light especially as it is connected with verse 8, and it is consistent with the book as a whole. The wicked will not achieve their own expectation, but instead, they will receive that which they wished upon the righteous. It is just this duplicity or hypocrisy of character that causes such grief to the neighbour of a wicked person (v. 8 cf. v. 12). The righteous, on the other hand, has integrity. The righteous understand the importance of being consistent and true-they can be trusted (cf. v. 13). In the end most people will rejoice in the latter’s presence, but will equally rejoice with the departure of the former (v.10). The upright thus bring blessing to a city, but the wicked hypocrite will be its downfall (v.11). One’s character will always impact others, for good or ill.
Proverbs 11:12-13 Holding One’s Peace.
Envy is not only coveting what another has, but it seeks to destroy the thing coveted to ensure the other person cannot keep it. In this sense, gossip is an outworking of envy. Gossip seeks to destroy another’s reputation by one who does not have a good rep themselves. Gossip is thus a form of theft, but not for oneself, simply so the owner suffers loss. A talebearer cannot be trusted with secrets. Done on a national scale, such behaviour is considered treason. Done on a personal level it destroys the basis of friendship and makes community impossible. Talebearing against one’s neighbour was against the law (Lev. 19:16)! Once again, we see the wisdom literature applying the law to life. Talebearing is a twin to flattery (Pr. 20:19). Flattery often comes from one who is gossiping behind the person’s back. This is hypocrisy. But there is something more here.
There are times when we know someone has sinned. There are times when the right thing to do is to “overlook a transgression.” (Pr. 19:11) This is not ignoring the sin or denying that sin is sin, it is about dealing with sin committed where it belongs. Jesus made the point that if your brother sins against you first go to him one on one (Mt. 18:15), if rectification is required. Sometimes all that is needed is silence as the offender comes to the realization that they may have crossed the line. “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.” (Pr. 10:12) Is one motivated by love or by hatred? Something uttered may be true but when uttered out of place or out of hate, then it then becomes sinful itself. This kind of gossip then is as bad as words based on speculation. The application to the church is obvious.
Proverbs 11:14; 12:15; 15:22; 19:21; 20:18; 24:6; 27:9 Seek Counsel.
“No man is an island,” is a common proverb today. Another is-“Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” Some do have plans-just not one’s tested by the wise counsel of others (Pr. 15:22). Plans will go awry for those who fail to seek out the wise counsel of others whom they can trust. No one would ever go to war without a battle plan, but many plan their lives without the wise counsel of others. “Plans are established by counsel” (Pr. 20:18), “and in a multitude of counsellors there is safety.” (Pr. 24:6)
Not to seek the counsel of others is foolish. “The way of the fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.” (Pr. 12:15) The fool is proud of his own “wisdom,” more than in seeking the wise counsel of others. On the other hand, the counsel of a friend is a delight to the heart (Pr. 27:9 cf. 12:20; 20:5). The best counsel comes from our closest friend-the LORD (Ps. 119:24). “There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the LORD’s counsel-that will stand.” (19:21)
Proverbs 11:15; 17:18; 22:26 Do Not Shake Hands As A Surety.
The proverbs warn against even becoming surety for a friend. “A man devoid of understanding shakes hands in a pledge, and becomes surety for his friend.” (17:18) Surety refers to guaranteeing, or offering collateral, for another person’s debt or obligation (22:26). How much more then is it unwise to be surety for a stranger. A friend one would know on some level, but a stranger is just that-a stranger. This also has something to say to business partnerships. One should be careful about being surety for another. Anyone who makes such a pledge should plead to be delivered (6:1-5). Those who hate being surety are secure, and their family and those who depend on them, are also secure. Who will be your surety when you go into debt for a friend or a stranger?
Proverbs 11:16 A Woman Of Grace.
Do we have here a contrast or a comparison? Why is the gracious woman, or more correctly, a woman of grace, contrasted with “ruthless” men? Why not the gracious man or the ruthless women? Phillips suggests that graciousness here, is contrasted with ruthless violence, and the gracious woman is not “grabbing what she wants at any price. She is not angry that she is a woman. She is not trying to be a man.” (‘God’s Wisdom In Proverbs,’ p. 219)
Is this proverb then a refutation of radical feminism? One does not need to go far to know that the gracious woman, who fears the Lord, definitely goes counter to the feminist culture (cf. Pr. 31:30). On the other hand, the Christian man also is counter-cultural to what our secular humanistic society defines as a man of enterprise. Note also that the woman of Proverbs was definitely enterprising (Pr. 31:10ff.).
R. Laird Harris, in the Wycliffe Commentary writes, “a gracious woman retaineth honor as surely as a ruthless man gets wealth.” (p. 568) Ruthless men of violence, certainly doesn’t sound like a good thing. My preference is to see this proverb not as a complete contrast of opposites, but in fact as a kind of comparison. In fact, Matthew Henry used the word ‘strong’ instead of ‘ruthless’ to describe the men here. So perhaps what we have is, what strength is to the labour of most men, namely the acquisition of riches, graciousness brings to this woman.
The proverbs often commend the shrewd man in his acquisition of wealth, as did Jesus (Mt. 25:14-30). The thought then, may be this: “a gracious woman is as honourable as a valiant man, and her honour is as sure.” (Matthew Henry, ‘Commentary,’ p. 505) So this gracious woman is every bit as industrious and productive as her male counterparts may be, but she is different. This certainly fits in with the biblical definition of manhood and womanhood-different yet equally honourable.
Proverbs 11:17-21, 23-28, 30-31. The Generous Soul Is Rich.
Showing mercy is good for the soul, but the wicked are cruel to themselves (v. 17). A person will reap what they sow. Righteousness is not only doing right it is having integrity-outward acts and words which reflect what’s in the heart. On the other hand, the wicked are deceptive. Blamelessness is the opposite of perversity (vv. 18-20). The terms righteous and wicked gives the impression that these are the rare extremes, but all people ultimately fall into two groups. The righteous will fail (v.31), but the wicked by their very nature are deceptive. Both will suffer the consequences of bad decisions, but what is the general direction of their lives? The one leads to life and reward, the other to death, and the wrath of judgment (vv. 18, 23). Joining hands with others will not help the wicked change their outcome (v.21).
Those who show mercy will always have more than enough, but those who are stingy will fall into poverty-body and soul (vv. 23-25). It is not as though it were simply a matter of charity. The righteous have something to sell, and the people will bless that person with business (v. 26). The wicked think only of themselves and would never think even of selling, because they are afraid of losing from their store. The righteous, on the other hand, is constantly seeking good (v.27). Riches are useful and necessary, but those who trust in them will fall (v. 28). The fool will ultimately be servant to the wise (v. 30). The righteous not only have enough for themselves, they have something to offer others, and will be rewarded ultimately. “The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself.” (v. 25)
Proverbs 11:22 Beauty With Discretion.
Character matters. No one would ever put a gold ring in a pig’s snout-to do so would surely be the height of vanity. This is the main point here. So it is with a woman who lacks discretion. She may be as lovely or fair as a gold ring, but without discretion the loveliness is misplaced. It is a bit like hypocrisy-there is a dissonance between the outward appearance and her character. She is literally tasteless. Commenting on the word discretion Matthew Henry wrote that it is, “a true taste and relish of the honours and pleasures that attend an unspotted virtue; so that a woman without discretion is a woman of a loose and dissolute conversation.” (Commentary Vol. II, p. 506) By ‘conversation’ Henry meant the whole life.
It is not as though a gold ring, or jewelry etc of any kind is wrong. Peter made the point that godly women have a beauty that is not merely in outward adornment (I Pet. 3:3). After all, these things are only worn-a godly character is lived. A godly woman has “chaste conduct accompanied by fear” (I Pet. 3:2), which can be observed. It is sadly the case that those with outward physical beauty are often the farthest away from a beauty of character. Henry also brings out another basic principle here, applicable to many things. “It may be applied to all other bodily endowments and accomplishments; it is a pity that those should have them who have not discretion to use them well.” (p. 506) It is as though the woman without discretion simply uses her beauty to satisfy her own lusts in shear selfish ambition. On the other hand, there is nothing quite so compelling as a woman who has beauty with discretion.
Proverbs 11:30; 14:25 The Soul Deliverer Is Wise.
A soul deliverer must be wise. God alone gives new birth, but He also chooses to use doctors and midwives. And it is not just conversion which is in view here. “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” (Js. 5:19-20) “Let him know!” This is work which should be encouraged. In this regard, “the fruit of the righteous is a tree of life.” (cf. Ps. 1:3) “Wisdom gives life to those who have it.” (Eccl. 7:12) As Jesus said, “by their fruits you shall know them.” (Mt. 7:17) The wise will shine (cf. Dan. 12:3).
A soul deliverer is wise for they bear true witness to what is good for the soul. A soul winner does not spout off their own wisdom, a true soul winner is a witness bearer to the only one who can help, and whose word is true. Conversely, there are many false witness bearers who will leave souls to perish in their sins and ignorance. There is more than identifying with folks and being sincere which is involved here. Life and death is a matter of what is true and false. Some people want to hear lies (Pr. 17:4), but “a false witness will perish.” (Pr. 21:28) For example, to deny the resurrection is to bear false witness (cf. I Cor. 15:15), and “you shall not bear false witness against.” (Ex. 20:16; Dt. 5:20)
To win souls requires wisdom. Shouting out a few words to warn others as one escapes a burning building may be appropriate in that case, but to truly deliver a soul from death, and capture them for life, requires wisdom. Those who sow the seed of the word of God can expect spiritual opposition, and the cares of life, to impede the way (cf. Luke 8:11-15). This was Paul’s approach. “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (I Cor. 9:19-23) Becoming all things to all men requires wisdom! But Paul did so for the sake of the gospel. He did the latter to further the former.
Proverbs 12:1 Don’t Be Stupid!
A person can’t gain knowledge without instruction. This may sound obvious, but the fool thinks his own thoughts are all that matters. Refusing correction is the quickest route to stupidity. This mindset is likened to being a beast (cf. Pr. 30:2; Ps. 73:22). The stubbornness of the horse or mule requires bit and bridle (Ps. 32:9). On a larger scale, all those philosophies which cast aside the word for human speculation are also stupid. Any worldview that is not based on the word and open to correction from it is a stupid one.
Proverbs 12:2-3, 7. Favour And Security.
There is a simple progression in the way of wisdom. The fear of the LORD is the beginning (1:7; 9:10). It is respect and honour to the LORD that makes one open to instruction and correction which He provides. Those who thus find wisdom find life and favour from the LORD (8:35). Those who love wisdom inherit wealth (8:21). “The righteous has an everlasting foundation.” (10:25) On the other hand, those who hate wisdom and instruction love death (8:36). True wisdom involves ethics-there is the good and there is the wicked. Wickedness cannot establish anything but death. The wicked will be condemned. The righteous, on the other hand, rest secure (12:2-3, 7).
Proverbs 12:5-6, 8 Right Thoughts.
To say that the thoughts of the righteous are right, doesn’t seem on the surface to be anything other than the obvious, like the fruit from an apple tree are apples. But there are at lest two things to note here. Firstly, what is right in one’s thoughts is never without an ethical dimension. Secondly, the counsel of the righteous is consistent with their thoughts-the righteous have integrity. The wicked are just the opposite. The wicked practice deceit. The words of the wicked lead to sin and death, but the righteous will deliver one from the same. The fact is, no one likes a person with a perverse heart. When it comes to human relationships trust is crucial, and a person with a perverse and deceitful heart cannot be trusted. On the other hand, a person of integrity, who speaks what is right, will ultimately be commended for their wisdom. When trials come, and they will, the wisdom of the righteous will bring about deliverance.
Proverbs 12:10 God Cares About All His Creatures.
“A righteous man regards the life of his animal.” (v. 10a) One can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat their animals. The righteous are those who heed God’s law with respect to one’s animals. The law states, “Do not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” (Dt. 25:4) Paul saw in this law a sure basis for a paid ministry of the word (I Cor. 9:9-11; I Tim. 5:17-18). If one does not care for their ox, they certainly will not care for the minister of the word, especially when that word condemns such maltreatment of man and beast. Those who reject God’s law with respect to their animals are like Balaam striking his donkey for having more sense than him (Nu. 22:22-34). One’s animals were also to enjoy the Sabbath rest (Ex. 20:10; Dt. 5:14). By contrast, even “the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” (v. 10b)
Proverbs 12:9-11; 11:24; 13:7 Being Productive With What Matters.
Not too many people have servants, but anyone who works for you at least has a job, even if they don’t highly esteem the one employing their services. This is certainly better than having nothing for oneself or to hire someone else (cf. 11:24). Honouring oneself certainly won’t pay the bills (v. 9). Better to be commended and esteemed by others for one’s wisdom (v. 8). A farmer needs to know when to till and when to harvest, and not be found idle when duty calls. Seasons wait for no man (v. 11). It is also true that one can have many riches but be poor in other things that matter (13:7). Life is more than the accumulation of wealth.
It also matters how that wealth is accrued. The righteous man cares for his animals (v.10 cf. Dt. 25:4) How much more his fellow man. It is also foolish-eventually those who aid in the accumulation of wealth will cease to be useful for this purpose. Man is body and soul. We should be concerned with more than just profits and satisfying our bodily needs or wants. Jesus described such a person as a fool. “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:20-21) Riches are meant to be employed for a useful purpose. You can’t take it with you, and hoarding it here will deprive one of investing in true treasures beyond.
Proverbs 12:12-14 From Root To Fruit.
Those who covet the fruit of other peoples labour the wisdom scriptures regard as wicked. This speaks not only to individuals but it also speaks to government confiscatory tax regimes, built on the premise that those who have owe it to those who have not. The bible mandates charity where charity is due, but these systems are built on coveting and envy. There is a contrast here. The wicked want the fruit of another’s labour, whereas the labour of the righteous is the fruit of a good heart (v. 12). The wicked are ensnared by their lies-the transgression of their lips (v. 13 Cf. Pr. 18:7). The righteous, by contrast, speak words which are the fruit of what is true within them (Cf. Pr. 13:2; 15:23; 18:20). In the end, both will receive the fruit of their own work (v. 14 Cf. Pr. 1:31; Is. 3:10-11).
Proverbs 12:18, 25; 15:13, 15, 23; 17:22; 25:11. Wise Words In Due Season.
The wise know what to say, but also when to say it. God has not only given His word, but gives wisdom on when to speak it. “The Lord God has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary.” (Is. 50:4) “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Pr. 25:11) The words of the wicked are like “the piercings of a sword.” (12:18) The same words can come from far different places with far different intentions. It is important to speak a word “in due season.” (Pr. 15:23)
The heart in the bible refers to a person’s core-usually of one’s thinking. But it can refer to the core of anything that makes us human. Sorrow in the heart breaks the spirit, but “a merry heart makes a cheerful countenance.” (Pr. 15:13) If the heart is feeling sad then the countenance will be fallen. Depression can also have severe affects upon the body. In fact, bodily ailments are often a symptom. “A merry heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.” (Pr. 17:22) On the other hand, “a merry heart has a continual feast.” (15:15)
Anxiety causes depression. Anxiety comes when we feel like we have a load we cannot bear, and a fear of collapsing under the weight. Sorrow can set in and courage disappear. Depression sets in when one feels both helpless and hopeless. It takes a lot of wisdom to know what to say, and when, to a person in this situation. A word spoken in season, is another way of saying that you identify with this person in the place where they are at the moment. Speaking a word out of season is like harvesting in the winter time. There is a time and place for things.
Proverbs 12:12-14 Root And Fruit-Words And Deeds.
Evil covets evil. “The wicked covet”-this is a given. However, they especially “covet the catch of evil men.” This is so because they not only covet the things themselves but the evil character of those who also do the same. People normally idolize those who they desire to be like, and there have been no shortage of examples of this in every age. However, just like an idol-it is worthless and lifeless. The wicked are like dumb beasts without substance. It is fitting that the word “idolize” is used.
The righteous, on the other hand, have the root of the matter within them. Jesus in His parable of the soils in which the seed is sown warns of those who receive the word but the root is not within them (Mk. 4:1-20). On the other hand, the righteous have the root within, and because it runs deep they bear fruit in keeping with that seed. Want to know if someone has the root of the seed of the word within them-look for the fruit. Words of affirmation are just more superficiality if the fruit is not present. Jesus also said, “by their fruits you will know them.” (Mt. 7:20)
It has been said, if you don’t lie you won’t need to remember the trail. One lie usually begets another just to cover up the first. “The wicked is ensnared by the transgression of his lips.” (12:13) Sooner or later the wicked get caught in a switchback of their own words. The righteous, who speak the truth, have no such worries. “The truth will set you free” (Jn. 8:32), is true in more ways than one. One’s words will come home to roost, one way or the other. The return on one’s words and deeds investments will either be for good or ill. “And the recompense of a man’s hands will be rendered to him.” (v. 14) A person’s words and deeds will be recompensed. Whatever is sown will be reaped.
Proverbs 12:15-16, 23. Heed Counsel And Be Prudent.
The fool has no self-restraint. The fool has no self-criticism. The fool will always remain a fool because they see no reason to consult others-they are right in their own eyes. Because there is no thought of ever being wrong there is no restraint on either what is said or when. The wise are careful not only in what they say but when and how. The foolish give no thought to content, timing, or how something is delivered. It goes to the heart of a person-the fool is a fool to the core. Everyone at some point utters what is foolish, but the fool is a fool to the core-their words are but the fruit of the root within.
The fool cannot but be foolish, and they are more than willing to reveal it. They can’t help themselves. The prudent man, on the other hand, will conceal knowledge, particularly to the foolish, for it is knowledge misspent. Knowledge is reserved for those who will heed it. A morsel of truth in the mouth of a fool can be as destructive as an error, because the fool will use some knowledge to another’s destruction. “A prudent man covers shame,” but the fool delights to reveal a secret with no thought to the outcome. The fool speaks from wrath. The wise do not reveal or consult with the foolish.
Proverbs 12:17-22 Truth Brings Peace And Joy.
A false witness is deceitful-their intention is to contradict the truth for another’s ill. Those who speak the truth, on the other hand, have integrity-it is a declaration of righteousness-both the truth itself and the integrity of the one speaking it (v. 17, 20). Conflicting words have differing results. The truth “promotes health.” (v. 18) And “counsellors of peace have joy.” (v. 20) Those who bear true witness seek the peace of what is right. There is a joy in this, for the LORD delights in it (v.22).
Furthermore, it is the truth which will ultimately be established forever. “But a lying tongue is but for a moment.” (v. 19) The truth ultimately sets one free (cf. Jn. 8:32). But instead of peace and joy, the wicked are “filled with evil.” (v.21) Words come as fruit from a person’s root or core, their heart (12:12 cf. Mt. 15:11, 19). Words have consequences, both in the present and in the judgment to come. “Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who deal truthfully are His delight.” (v. 22) God delights in those who speak the truth, but those who delight in lying will be condemned.
Proverbs 12:17-22 Counselors Of Peace Have Joy.
Bearing witness is ethical conduct. We are quick to distinguish words and deeds, but words are deeds. Righteousness has to do with integrity-it is the opposite of deceit (12:17 cf. 14:5; 15:4). The words of a false witness pierce like a sword-whereas the words of the wise promote health. So firstly, truth exists, and it expresses integrity. Secondly, the reciprocal is also true-there is falsehood. There is no thought here that we all have our own version of what is true. Real truth and real falsehood exists in the world. Thirdly, words have consequences-life and death come by words spoken (cf. 4:22).
Fourth, truth is ultimately what will endure. Those who love falsehood love death. “A lying tongue is but for a moment.” (v. 19 cf. 19:9; Ps. 52:4-5) Those who love the truth love life. Deceit goes to the heart-the core of a person. It is a fundamental lack of integrity-complete antithetical disharmony. The opposite are those whose heart is unified. Fifth, those who have integrity are ultimately purveyors of peace, because they are at peace in themselves, and their reward is joy (v. 20). The ultimate joy is the delight which the LORD has in those who deal truthfully (v. 22).
Sixth, speaking the truth is a righteous act, which ultimately results in lasting peace and joy. Finally, “lying lips are an abomination to the LORD.” (v.21) Trouble follows those who live a life of lies and deception. The wicked are filled with evil. And it is more than just opinions. Again, there is such a thing as truth-in opposition to falsehood. It is among the seven things which are an abomination-things which the LORD hates, including those who would sow discord among brethren (6:16-19 cf. 11:20). The righteous, on the other hand, will have peace and joy.
Proverbs 13:2-3, 5-6. Words Are Fruit.
Words are fruit which come from what is planted in the heart (v.2 cf. 12:14; Mt. 12:34). A person is fed from fruitful words. It is also wise to guard one’s speech (cf. Ps. 39:1). Words should be chosen carefully (cf. 21:23). Many words, not carefully chosen, will lead to destruction (v. 3). Taming the tongue takes discipline (cf. Js. 3). Those who have integrity, the righteous, hate lying, and the LORD hates it also (cf. 6:16-19). “Righteousness,” or integrity, “guards him whose way is blameless.” (v. 6) A person lives or dies by words spoken.
Proverbs 13:9; 21:4; 24:20 The Light Of The Righteous Rejoices.
At Proverbs 21:4 the LXX translates the Hebrew as ‘lamp’. Apparently the Hebrew is open to different meanings here. At Pr. 24:20 Strong suggest that even the ploughed field has to do with it gleaning-maybe to reconcile it with the lamp meaning. This is where the LXX is helpful-done by those who knew both languages. With words like this it is best to go with the LXX-it is more precise. There is also the context where that word is used-and lamp seems to make more sense in these instances. Job 21:17 and others (eg. 18:5-6), also see lamp as a person’s life. It is true that even the ploughing of a field, a seemingly neutral activity, is sinful when the wicked do so in their own pride. Both are true-but lamp seems more fitting.
So the wicked are haughty and arrogant but God can and will take their life. The light or “guiding” principles of the wicked are in fact sin. One could say it is akin to “pride comes before a downfall.” Sinful pride is no sure guide-it will lead to ruin. As Isaiah would say later, “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (8:20) This is why the righteous rejoices for, “In Your light we see light.” (Ps. 36:9) God the LORD has not left us in the darkness of our own imaginations-He has given us an infallible canon. The bottom line in these proverbs seems to be that the righteous will enjoy a long and blessed life, whereas the wicked will fall by their own pride.
Proverbs 13:13-14 God’s Law-The Way Of The Wise.
To despise the word is to break the commandment, and the end is being cut off from covenant life (Nu. 15:31). To despise the word is to mock God’s messengers and scoff at his prophets-the end is God’s wrath (II Chron. 36:16). Those who do so will suffer complete destruction-they have no root of life in them (Is. 5:24). There are huge swafts in the evangelical and reformed church that do not have the root of the matter within them. They say they believe in the word, but they despise God’s law. The life of God’s covenant keepers is the exact opposite. “He who fears the commandment will be rewarded.” (v.13) Those who are wise are wise because they fear His commandments. They protect one “from the snares of death.” (v.14) God’s law is our guide, our light (Pr. 6:22-23).
Proverbs 14:27, 30 A Sound Heart.
Perhaps it demonstrates how far we are from the biblical conception of wisdom that the couplets of contrast in this book strikes some of us as odd. Physically it is certainly true that a sound heart is life to the whole body. One can imagine that even in the age of Solomon this was understood. “But envy is rottenness to the bones.” (v. 30) In the word, the heart refers to one’s core. So what we learn here is that envy is the chief enemy of a sound spiritual and psychological existence. It goes to the core of a person and destroys one from within.
Envy makes one their own worst enemy. Envy is more than covetousness. It is not only wanting what is another’s, it is wishing and scheming that even if one cannot have it, they do not want the other to enjoy what is rightfully and lawfully theirs. It is being grieved at another’s blessings (Cf. Ps. 112:10). It is a most pernicious evil and brutal form of self-destruction. Those who fear the LORD in the inward parts, and delight themselves in His word and wisdom, are protected from this. “The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death.” (v. 27)