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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.
See the Introduction.
2Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death.
Righteousness - Including, perhaps, the idea of benevolence. Compare the use of δικαιοσύνη dikaiosunē, in Matthew 6:1 (the older reading), and 2 Corinthians 9:9-10.
3The LORD will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish: but he casteth away the substance of the wicked.
Casteth away ... - Better, "overturns, disappoints the strong desire of the wicked." Tantalus-like, they never get the enjoyment they thirst after.
4He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.
Slack - The word is elsewhere translated as "deceitful" Job 13:7; Psalm 120:2-3; Hosea 7:16; Jeremiah 48:10. The two thoughts run easily into each other.
5He that gathereth in summer is a wise son: but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame.
The son is called upon to enter upon the labors of others, and reap where they have sown. To sleep when the plenteous harvest lies ready for the sickle is the most extreme laziness.
6Blessings are upon the head of the just: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.
Covereth ... - The meaning is perhaps, the violence which the wicked has done is as a bandage over his mouth, reducing him to a silence and shame, like that of the leper Leviticus 13:45; Micah 3:7 or the condemned criminal Esther 7:8, whose "face is covered."
7The memory of the just is blessed: but the name of the wicked shall rot.
8The wise in heart will receive commandments: but a prating fool shall fall.
A prating ... fall - Better, as in the margin. Inward self-contained wisdom is contrasted with self-exposed folly.
9He that walketh uprightly walketh surely: but he that perverteth his ways shall be known.
Shall be known - literally, "shall be made to know" (see Jeremiah 31:19; Judges 8:16 margin) in the sense of exposed.
10He that winketh with the eye causeth sorrow: but a prating fool shall fall.
In Proverbs 10:8 the relation between the two clauses was one of contrast, here of resemblance. Cunning, reticence, and deceit (Proverbs 6:12 note) bring sorrow no less than garrulity.
11The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.
Compare Proverbs 10:6. Streams of living water (like the "fountain of living waters" of Jeremiah 2:13; Jeremiah 17:13, and the "living water" of John 4:10), flow from the mouth of the righteous, but that of the wicked is "covered," i. e., stopped and put to silence by their own violence.
12Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.
Love covereth all sins - i. e., First hides, does not expose, and then forgives and forgets all sins.
13In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding.
i. e., The wisdom of the wise is seen in the words that issue from his lips; the folly of the fool is not only seen in his speech, but brings upon him the chastisement which he well deserves.
14Wise men lay up knowledge: but the mouth of the foolish is near destruction.
Lay up - The point of the maxim is that the wise man reserves what he has to say for the right time, place, and persons (compare Matthew 7:6), as contrasted with the foolish, ever giving immediate utterance to what destroys himself and others.
15The rich man's wealth is his strong city: the destruction of the poor is their poverty.
Destruction - That which crushes, throws into ruins. Wealth secures its possessors against many dangers; poverty exposes men to worse evils than itself, meanness, servility, and cowardice. Below the surface there lies, it may be, a grave irony against the rich; see Proverbs 18:11.
16The labour of the righteous tendeth to life: the fruit of the wicked to sin.
A warning against the conclusion to seek wealth first of all, which men of lower natures might draw from Proverbs 10:15.
"Quaerenda pecunia primum est;
Virtus post nummos?"
Horace, Ephesians 1. i.53.
Such an inference is met by the experience, that while wealth gotten by honest industry is not only, like inherited riches a defense, but also a blessing, the seeming profit (rather than "fruit") of the wicked tends to further sin 1 Timothy 6:10, and so to punishment. Compare Romans 6:21.
17He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth.
literally, A way of life is he that keepeth instruction. The verb "erreth" is better rendered in the margin. The influence for good or evil spreads beyond the man himself.
18He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool.
Better, He who hideth hatred is of lying lips. He who cherishes hatred, is either a knave, or a fool - a knave if he hides, a fool if he utters it.
19In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.
There wanteth not sin - Some render this, "Sin shall not cease," etc., i. e., many words do not mend a fault. Silence on the part both of the reprover and the offender is often better. The King James Version is, however, preferable.
20The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth.
The tongue, the instrument of the mind is contrasted with the heart or mind itself, the just with the wicked, the choice silver with the worthless "little," the Hebrew word being possibly taken in its primary sense as a "filing" or "scraping" of dross or worthless metal. If the tongue is precious, how much more the mind! If the heart is worthless, how much more the speech!
21The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom.
Feed - The Hebrew word, like ποιμαίνειν poimainein, includes the idea of guiding as well as nourishing; doing a shepherd's work in both.
For want of wisdom - Some prefer, through him who wanteth understanding, referring to a person. The wise guides others to safety; the fool, empty-headed, and empty-hearted, involves others like himself in destruction.
22The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.
23It is as sport to a fool to do mischief: but a man of understanding hath wisdom.
As the fool finds his sport in doing mischief, so the man of understanding finds in wisdom his truest refreshment and delight.
24The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him: but the desire of the righteous shall be granted.
The fear - i. e., The thing feared (compare the marginal reference).
Shall be granted - Or, He (Yahweh) giveth the desire of the righteous.
25As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more: but the righteous is an everlasting foundation.
Or, when the whirlwind is passing, then the wicked is no more. Compare Matthew 7:24-27.
The righteous ... - In the later rabbinic interpretation this was applied to the Messiah as being the Just One, the Everlasting Foundation, on whom the world was established.
26As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him.
The teeth set on edge by the sour wine used by peasants Ruth 2:14; Psalm 69:21, the eye irritated by wood-smoke, these shadow the annoyance of having a messenger who will loiter on the way.
27The fear of the LORD prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.
28The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish.
Transpose "hope" and "expectation." The expectant waiting of the righteous is joyful at the time, and ends in joy: the eager hope of the wicked comes to nought.
29The way of the LORD is strength to the upright: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.
Omit "shall be." The meaning is: "The Way of Yahweh," i. e., the Divine Order of the world, has its two sides. It is "strength to the upright, destruction to the workers of iniquity."
30The righteous shall never be removed: but the wicked shall not inhabit the earth.
The wicked shall rot inhabit - The other and higher side of the same law of the divine government appears in Matthew 5:5.
31The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom: but the froward tongue shall be cut out.
Bringeth forth ... - As a tree full of life and sap brings forth its fruit. So the "froward tongue" is like a tree that brings forth evil and not good fruit; it "shall be cut down." The abuse of God's gift of speech will lead ultimately to its forfeiture. There shall, at last, be the silence of shame and confusion.
32The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness.
Know - i. e., "Know, and therefore utter." So, in like manner, the "mouth of the wicked" knows, and therefore speaks frowardness, and that only.