|<< Proverbs 16 >>|
Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD.
The proverbs in Proverbs 16:1-7 have, more than any other group, an especially religious character impressed upon them. The name of Yahweh as Giver, Guide, Ruler, or Judge, meets us in each of them.
Better, The plans of the heart belong to man, but the utterance of the tongue is from Yahweh. Thoughts come and go, as it were, spontaneously; but true, well ordered speech is the gift of God. Compare Proverbs 16:9.
2All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits.
We are blind to our own faults, do not see ourselves as others see us. There is One who tries not the "ways" only, but the "spirits" Hebrews 4:12 : this is the true remedy against self-deceit.
3Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.
Commit - literally, as in the margin, as a man transfers a burden from his own back to one stronger and better able to bear it. Compare the margin reference.
Thy thoughts - i. e., The plans or counsels out of which the works spring.
4The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.
For himself - Better, The Lord has done everything for its own end; and this includes the appointment of an "evil day" for "the wicked" who deserve it.
5Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.
See the marginal reference note.
6By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil.
Compare Proverbs 15:8. "By mercy and truth," not by sacrifices and burnt-offerings, "iniquity is purged, atoned for, expiated." The teaching is the same as that of the prophets.
7When a man's ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.
Goodness has power to charm and win even enemies to itself.
8Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right.
9A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.
Deviseth his way - i. e., Thinks it out with anxious care; yet it is the Lord and He only who directs the steps. Compare Proverbs 16:1.
10A divine sentence is in the lips of the king: his mouth transgresseth not in judgment.
A divine sentence - See the margin, i. e., "soothsaying" in its darker aspect as contrasted with prophecy. The true oracle is to be sought, not from soothsayers and diviners, but "at the lips of the king," who is ideally the representative, the προφήτης prophētēs of Yahweh, in His government of mankind.
11A just weight and balance are the LORD'S: all the weights of the bag are his work.
See Proverbs 11:1 note. People are not to think that trade lies outside the divine law. God has commanded there also all that belongs to truth and right.
12It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness: for the throne is established by righteousness.
13Righteous lips are the delight of kings; and they love him that speaketh right.
14The wrath of a king is as messengers of death: but a wise man will pacify it.
While Proverbs 16:13 depicts the king as he ought to be, this verse reminds us of the terrible rapidity with which, in the despotic monarchies of the East, punishment, even death, follows royal displeasure.
15In the light of the king's countenance is life; and his favour is as a cloud of the latter rain.
The "latter rain" is that which falls in March or April just before the harvest. The "cloud" which brings it, immediately screening people from the scorching sun, and bringing plenty and blessing, is a fit type of the highest favor.
16How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!
17The highway of the upright is to depart from evil: he that keepeth his way preserveth his soul.
18Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
19Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.
20He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the LORD, happy is he.
Good as it is to "handle a matter wisely," it is far better to "trust in the Lord." The former is really impossible except through the latter.
21The wise in heart shall be called prudent: and the sweetness of the lips increaseth learning.
The words point to the conditions of all true growth in wisdom; and he who has the gift of uttering it in winning speech increases it in himself and others.
22Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him that hath it: but the instruction of fools is folly.
Wellspring of life - Compare Proverbs 10:11 note. "the instruction of fools" Not that which they give, but that which they receive. Compare Proverbs 14:24. "Folly" is its own all-sufficient punishment.
23The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips.
24Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.
Honey took its place not only among the luxuries, but among the medicines of the Israelites. This two-fold use made it all the more suitable to be an emblem both of the true Wisdom which is also true obedience, and of the "pleasant words" in which that Wisdom speaks.
25There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
26He that laboureth laboureth for himself; for his mouth craveth it of him.
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).
27An ungodly man diggeth up evil: and in his lips there is as a burning fire.
The four verses speak of the same thing, and the well-known opprobrious name, the "man of Belial," stands at the head as stigmatizing the man who delights in causing the mischief of which they treat.
Diggeth up evil - i. e., Digs an evil pit for others to fall into. Compare Psalm 7:15.
28A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends.
29A violent man enticeth his neighbour, and leadeth him into the way that is not good.
30He shutteth his eyes to devise froward things: moving his lips he bringeth evil to pass.
The physiognomy of the man of Belial, the half-closed eyes that never look you straight in the face, the restlessness or cunning of which biting the lips is the surest indication. Compare Proverbs 6:13.
31The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.
Omit "if." Literally, "it (i. e., the hoary head) is found in the way of righteousness," comes as the reward of righteousness.
32He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.
33The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.
Disposing - Better, the judgment or sentence which depends upon the lot. The lots were thrown into the gathered folds of a robe, and then drawn out. Where everything seemed the merest chance, there the faithful Israelite teacher recognized the guidance of a higher will. Compare the case of Achan Joshua 7:18, and of Jonathan 1 Samuel 14:37-42. The process here described would seem to have been employed ordinarily in trials where the judges could not decide on the facts before them (compare Proverbs 18:18).