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Song of Solomon
Proverbs 11 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)
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A false balance
abomination to the LORD: but a just weight
A false balance;
balances of deceit
). The repetition of the injunctions of
Deuteronomy 25:13, 14
Leviticus 19:35, 36
points to fraud consequent on increased commercial dealings, and the necessity of moral and religious considerations to control practices which the civil authority could not adequately supervise. The standard weights and measures were deposited in the sanctuary (
1 Chronicles 23:29
), but cupidity was not to be restrained by law, and the prophets had continually to inveigh against this besetting sin (see
). Honesty and integrity are at the foundation of social duties, which the author is now teaching. Hence comes the reiteration of these warnings (
A just weight;
literally, a perfect stone, stones having been used as weights from early times. So we read (
2 Samuel 14:26
) that Absalom weighed his hair "by the king's stone" (
pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly
Then cometh shame
: 18:12); literally,
cometh pride, cometh also shame.
Pride shall have a fall; self-assertion and self-confidence shall meet with mortification and disgrace in the end. "Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased" (
); "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (
1 Corinthians 10:12
). Septuagint, "Where violence (
) entereth, there also dishonor."
But with the lowly is wisdom.
"Mysteries are revealed unto the meek" (Ecclus. 3:19, Complutensian;
Psalm 25:9, 14
). The humble are already rewarded with wisdom because their disposition fits them to receive grace and God's gifts (comp.
). Septuagint, "The mouth of the humble meditateth wisdom."
The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.
- the simple straightforwardness
- of the upright shall
in the right way, and give them success in their undertakings with the blessing of God (comp. ver. 5). Septuagint, "the perfection of the straightforward" (
, and there only. Vulgate,
, "the tripping up," making others fall, putting a stumbling block in others' way.
; treacherous and deceitful. Such persons shall be caught in their own net (
); they not only bring punishment on themselves when their evil designs are discovered and frustrated, but they ruin their moral nature, lose all sense of truth and right, and are rejected of God. This clause and the following verse are omitted in the Vatican and some other manuscripts of the Septuagint.
Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.
afford no refuge (
In the day of wrath
), when God visits individuals or nations to punish them for sin (comp. Ecclus. 5:8). Such visitations are often spoken of (comp.
Zephaniah 1:15, 18
, etc.). More especially will this be true in me great
(see on Proverbs 10:2; and comp. Tobit 4:10 Tobit 12:9). The Septuagint here adds a sentence which is similar to ver. 10: "When the righteous dieth he leaveth regret, but the destruction of the wicked is easy and delightsome (
πρόχειρος καὶ ἐπίχαρτος
The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness.
; the upright and honest. Vulgate, "simple;" Septuagint, "blameless."
- make straight or smooth -
). The good man, not blinded by passion, follows a safe and direct path of life; but the wicked, led by his own evil propensious, and losing the light of conscience (
), stumbles and fails. Septuagint, "Righteousness cutteth straight (
) blameless paths, but ungodliness walketh in iniquity."
, and nowhere else in the Septuagiut. St. Paul adopts the word in
2 Timothy 2:15
The righteousness of the upright shall deliver them: but transgressors shall be taken in
- An emphatic reiteration of the preceding sentences.
; "strong desire," as
, which leads to sin (
). The indulgence of their passions destroys sinners. Septuagint," Transgressors are taken by lack of counsel."
When a wicked man dieth,
expectation shall perish: and the hope of unjust
that which he hoped for and set his heart upon, worldly prosperity, long life, impunity, - all are cut off, and the moral government of God is confirmed, by his death (
). (For "the hope of the ungodly," see the forcible expressions in Wisd. 5:14.)
Of unjust men;
. The word seems to mean "vanities,"
"men of vanity" - abstract for concrete. Others translate, "godless hope," or "expectation that bringeth grief," or "strong, self-confident men;" "men in the fulness of their vigour." But the rendering of the Authorized Version is well supported, and the two clauses are coordinate. The Septuagint, in order to accentuate the implied antithesis, has seemingly altered the text, and introduced a thought which favours the immortality of the soul, "When a righteous man dieth, hope perisheth not; but the boast of the wicked perisheth" (Wisd. 3:18).
The righteous is delivered out of trouble, and the wicked cometh in his stead.
Out of trouble;
God is at hand to help the righteous out of straits (
, Vulgate); or takes him away from the evil to come (
; Wisd. 4:10-14). Septuagint, "escapeth from the chase."
In his stead
). The evil from which the righteous is saved fails upon the wicked. As Abraham says to Dives in the parable, "He is comforted, but thou art tormented" (
). Of this substitution many instances occur in Scripture. Thus Haman was hanged on the gallows which he had erected for Mordecai (
); Daniel's accusers were cast into the den of lions from which he was saved (
An hypocrite with
mouth destroyeth his neighbour: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered.
, Vulgate. So translated continually in Job,
8:13; 13:16, etc. Others take it to mean "profane," "godless." Such a man, by his falsehoods, insinuations, and slanders, destroys his neighbour as far as he is able (
). Septuagint, "In the mouth of the wicked is a snare for fellow citizens." Through knowledge. By the knowledge which the just possess, and which they display by judicious counsel, peace and safety are secured. Septuagint, "Knowledge affords an easy path (
) for the just."
When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth: and when the wicked perish,
any city. Ewald would argue that such language could not be used of the capital of the Jews till the times of Asa or Jehoshaphat. But what is to prevent the sentence being taken generally of any city or community? The Vatican manuscript of the Septuagint and some others give here only the first clause, "In the prosperity of the righteous the city succeeds," adding from ver. 11, "but by the mouths of the wicked it is overthrown" (see on ver. 4; comp.
By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.
- This verse gives the reason of the rejoicing on the two occasions just mentioned (comp.
By the blessing of the upright;
their righteous acts, counsels, sad prayers (Wisd. 6:24).
By the mouth of the wicked.
Their impious language and evil advice, bring ruin upon a city.
He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.
He that is void of wisdom
despiseth his neighbor;
uses words of contempt about his neighbour. Septuagint, "sneers at his fellow citizens." The following clause indicates that contemptuous language is chiefly intended.
Holdeth his peace.
An intelligent man is slow to condemn, makes allowance for others' difficulties, and, if he cannot approve, at least knows how to be silent.
nulli tacuisse nocet nocet esse locutum
. "Speech is silver," says the proverb, "silence is golden." Septuagint, "A man of sense keeps quiet."
A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.
The word implies one who goes about chattering, gossiping, and slandering (
qui ambulat fraudulenter
; Septuagint, "the man of double tongue." To such a man it is safe to trust nothing; he
He that is of a faithful spirit;
a steadfast, trusty man, not a gadder about; he retains what is committed to him (Ecclus. 27:16, "Whoso discovereth secrets luseth his credit, and shall never find friend to his mind"). Septuagint, "He that is faithful in spirit [
, as in
, where see note] concealeth matters."
Where no counsel
, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellers
Where no counsel is.
The word properly means "steersmanship," "pilotage" (
). So Vulgate
, "They who have no government fall like leaves," reading
In the multitude of counsellors
). This would go to prove the superiority of a popular government over the despotism of a single ruler. But the caution of our homely proverb is net inopportune, "Too many cooks spoil the broth."
He that is surety for a stranger shall smart
: and he that hateth suretiship is sure.
He that is surety for a stranger;
for it. "Evil shall fall on him evilly who is surety."
He that hateth suretyship;
guaranteed, as the word implies, by the striking of hands in public (
). Vulgate, "who is cautious of snares," especially of the insidious dangers that lurk in suretyship.
is at rest and has nothing to fear. There is no paronomasia in the Hebrew. The play on "suretyship" and "sure" in the Authorized Version is either accidental or was introduced with the idea of giving point to the sentence. The Septuagint translates differently, "A wicked man doeth evil when he mixes with the righteous; he hateth the sound of safety (
)." This perhaps means that the fraudulent creditor deceives the good man who has stood security for him; and henceforward the good man cannot bear to hear immunity and safety spoken of (see note on Proverbs 20:16).
A gracious woman retaineth honour: and strong
A gracious woman;
a woman full of grace. Septuagint,
"agreeable," "charming." The author is thinking of personal attractions, which, he says, win favour; but we may apply his expression to moral exeellences also, which obtain higher recognition.
, as in
. The two clauses are parallel in form, not in sense, and imply that beauty is more effective than strength, and honour is better than wealth. The Septuagint takes a narrow view: "A graceful woman bringeth glory to her husband." The last clause is rendered, "The manly (
) are supported by wealth." Between the two clauses the LXX. and the Syriac introduce the following paragraphs: "But a seat of dishonour is a woman that hateth righteousness. The indolent come to want wealth, but the manly," etc.
The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but
he that is
cruel troubleth his own flesh.
The merciful man;
the kind, loving man. Septuagint,
. His own soul;
himself. His good deeds return in blessings upon himself. "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy" (
Troubleth his own flesh;
brings retribution on himself. Some commentators, comparing Ecclus. 14:5 ("He that is evil to himself, to whom will he be good?"), translate, "He who does good to himself is a kind man to others, and he who troubles his own body will be cruel to others." The sentiment is quite untrue. Self-indulgence does not lead to regard for others; and a severe, ascetic life, while it encourages stern views of human weaknesses, does not make a man cruel and uncharitable. The Vulgate takes "his own flesh" to mean "his neighbours," as Judah calls his brother Joseph "our flesh" (
). But the parallelism confirms the Authorized Version.
The wicked worketh a deceitful work: but to him that soweth righteousness
a sure reward.
A deceitful work;
work that brings no reward or profit, belying hope, like "fundus mendax" of Horace, 'Od.,' 3:1, 30. The Septuagint has, "unrighteous works," which seems a jejune rendering, and does not bring out the contrast of the
in the second member (comp.
Proverbs 10:2, 16
To him that soweth righteousness
Galatians 6:8, 9
). To "sow righteousness" is to act righteously, to live in such a way that the result is holiness. The "reward," in a Jew's eyes, would be a long life in which to enjoy the fruits of his good conduct. We Christians have a better hope, which is, perhaps, adumbrated by this analogy: as the seed sown in the field does not produce its fruit till the time of harvest, so righteousness meets with its full recompense only in the great harvest at the end of all things. The Revised Version renders,
The wicked earnnth deceitful wages
but he that soweth righteousness hath a sure reward.
This makes a good antithesis. The Septuagint renders the last clause, "but the seed of the righteous is a true reward (
to life: so he that pursueth evil
to his own death.
- This verse is not to be connected with the preceding, as in the margin of the Revised Version, "so righteousness," etc., each couplet in these chapters being independent, the connection, such as it is, being maintained by the use of catchwords, such as "righteous," "wicked," "upright," etc.
As righteousness tendeth to life.
The various uses of the first word
) have led to different renderings. The Authorized Version takes it for "as;" the Revised Version as an adjective:
He that is steadfast
It is, perhaps, better, with Nowack, to regard it as an adverb: "He who is honestly, strictly, of righteousness, is to life." The meaning is plain: real, genuine righteousness hath the promise of this life and of that which is to come (
1 Timothy 4:8
). The LXX., reading
), translate, "A righteous son is born for life."
He that pursueth evil
); Septuagint, "the persecution of the impious,"
that which an impious man inflicts. But the Authorized Version is correct, and the clause means that he who practises evil brings ruin eventually on himself - a warning trite, but unheeded (comp.
They that are of a froward heart
abomination to the LORD: but
such as are
They that are of a froward heart
); Septuagint, "perverse ways." The word means "distorted from the right," "obstinate in error."
Upright in their way
in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished: but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered.
hand to hand
, which may be taken variously. The Septuagint and some other versions take the phrase in the sense of unjust violence: "He who layeth hand upon hand unjustly;" Vulgate,
manus in manu
, "hand in hand," which is as enigmatical as the Hebrew. Some Jewish interpreters consider it an adverbial expression, signifying simply "soon." Some moderns take it to mean "sooner or later," as the Italian
mano in mano
, or, in succession of one generation after another (Gesenius, Wordsworth). Others deem it a form of adjuration, equivalent to "I hereby attest, my hand upon it!" And this seems the most probable interpretation; assuredly the Divine justice shall be satisfied by the punishment of the wicked (comp.
.). The Authorized Version gives a very good sense: "Though hands be plighted in faith, and men may associate together in evil, the wicked shall not go unpunished" (comp.
). St. Gregory ('Mor. in Job,' lib. 25.) takes a very different view: "Hand in hand the wicked shall not be innocent;" for hand is wont to he joined with hand when it rests at ease, and no laborious employment exercises it. As though he were saying, "Even when the hand rests from sinful deeds, yet the wicked, by reason of his thoughts, is not innocent" (Oxford transl.). This exposition is, of course, divorced from the context.
The seed of the righteous.
This is not "the posterity of the righteous," but is a periphrasis for "the righteous," as in
, "the generation of the righteous" (comp.
). The climax which some see here - as if the author intended to say, "Not only the good themselves, but their descendants also shall be delivered" - is non-existent and unnecessary. Septuagint, "But he that soweth righteousness shall receive a sure reward," which is another rendering of the second member of ver. 18.
in the time of God's wrath (vers. 4, 23;
a jewel of gold in a swine's snout,
a fair woman which is without discretion.
- This is the first instance of direct "similitude" in the book.
As a jewel
of gold in a swine's snout.
The greatest incongruity is thus expressed. Women in the East wore, and still sometimes wear, a ring run through the nostril, and hanging over the mouth, so that it is necessary to hold it up when taking food. Such a
Abraham's servant gave to Rebekah (
). The Septuagint has
, "an earring."
So is a fair woman which is without discretion;
without taste, deprived of the faculty of saying and doing what is seemly and fitting. The external beauty of such a woman is as incongruous as a precious ring in the snout of a pig. Lesetre quotes an Arab proverb: "A woman without modesty is food without salt." Whether swine in Eastern countries were "ringed," as they are with us nowadays, is unknown; if they were thus treated, the proverb is still more vivid.
The desire of the righteous
the expectation of the wicked
The desire of the righteous is only good.
They want only what is just and honest, and therefore they obtain their wiches.
The expectation of the wicked
- that on which they set their hope and heart - is
), is an object of God's wrath. Other commentators, ancient and modern, take the clause to imply that the wishes of evil men, animated by wrath and ill temper, are only satisfied by inflicting injuries on others. Delitzsch would translate
, "excess," "presumption," as in
. But the first interpretation seems most suitable (scrap.
Romans 2:8, 9
). The LXX., pointing differently, for "wrath" reads "shall perish."
There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and
that withholdeth more than is meet, but
There is that
that giveth liberally, as
:99, "He hath dispersed, he hath given to the needy."
And yet increaseth
; becomes only the richer in wealth and more blessed by God (comp.
). Nutt quotes the old epitaph, "What we spent, we had; what we saved, we lost; what we gave, we have." Experience proves that no one ultimately loses who gives the tithe of his income to God (see on Proverbs 28:27). There is
that withholdeth more than is meet;
is niggardly where he ought to be liberal. But the expression is best taken as in the margin of the Revised Version, "that withholdeth what is justly due," either as a debt or as a proper act of generosity becoming one who desires to please God and to do his duty.
. That which is thus withheld is no real benefit to him. it only inure, sos his want. Septuagint and Vulgate, "There are who, sewing what is their own, make the more; and there are who, gathering what is another's, suffer loss." Dionysius Cato, 'Distich. de Mor.,' 54:4, 1 -
"Despice divitias, si vis animo esse beatus,
Quas qui suscipiunt mendicant semper avari."
The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.
- The sentiment of the preceding verse is here carried on and confirmed.
The liberal soul;
the soul of blessings
, the man that blesses others by giving liberally.
Shall be made fat
). The term is used of the rich and prosperous (
). Septuagint, "Every simple soul is blessed."
He that watereth
- benefits and refreshes others -
shall be watered also himself;
shall receive the blessing which he imparts. The Vulgate introduces another idea,
Qui inebriat, ipse quoque inebriabitur
, where the verb implies rather abundance than excess, as in
, etc. The Septuagint departs widely from the present text: "A passionate man is not graceful" (
is ugly in appearance and manner - a sentiment which may be very true, but it is not clear how it found its way into the passage. St. Chrysostom comments upon it in 'Hom.' 17, on St. John. There are some Eastern proverbs on the stewardship of the rich. When a good man gets riches, it is like fruit falling into the midst of the village. The riches of the good are like water turned into a rice field. The good, like clouds, receive only to give away. The rivers themselves drink not their water; nor do the trees eat their own sweet fruit, and the clouds eat not the crops. The garment in which you clothe another will last longer than that in which you clothe yourself. Who gives alms sows one and reaps a thousand.
He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him: but blessing
upon the head of him that selleth
He that withholdeth corn.
The practice reprehended is not confined to any one time or place. The avaricious have always been found ready to buy corn and other necessary articles of consumption when plentiful, and wait till there was dearth in the market or scarcity in the land, and then sell them at famine prices. Amos sternly reproves this iniquity (
, etc.). It is a sin against justice and charity, and it is said of him who is guilty of it,
the people shall curse him
). Such selfishness has often given rise to tumult and bloodshed, and has been punished in a signal manner. The legend of Bishop Hatto shows the popular feeling concerning these Dardanarians, as they were called by Ulpian ('Digest. Justin.,' 47:11.6). Such a one St. Chrysostom ('Hom. in 1 Cor.,' 39) calls "a common enemy of the blessings of the world, and a foe to the liberality of the Lord of the world, and a friend of mammon, or rather his slave." The Septuagint gives a curious rendering: "He who hohleth corn may he leave it for the peoples!"
may neither he nor his heirs be benefited by his store, but may it be distributed among others far and near!
That selleth it;
that breaketh it
, as it is said of Joseph when he sold corn to the Egyptians (
He that diligently seeketh good procureth favour: but he that seeketh mischief, it shall come unto him.
He that diligently seeketh good;
he that seeketh in the morning
, as so often in Scripture, the phrase, "rising early," implies unimpaired powers and diligence (
; by his very act of striving after what is good, he is striving to do what may please and benefit others, and thus to please God. Vulgate, "Well does he rise early who seeketh good."
- mischief -
shall come unto him;
the consequences of his evil life shall fall upon his end. Says an Indian proverb, "When men are ripe for slaughter, even straws turn into thunderbolts."
He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.
- There are many expressions in this and the following verses which recall
He that trusteth in his riches shall fall
Psalm 49:6, 7
; Ecclus. 5:8). Wealth is of all things the most uncertain, and leads the heart astray from God (
1 Timothy 6:17
As a branch;
"as a leaf" (Psalm 1:8;
). The righteous grow in grace and spiritual beauty, and bring forth the fruit of good works. Septuagint, "He who layeth hold on what is righteous [or, 'helpeth the righteous'] shall spring up
He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool
servant to the wise of heart.
He that troubleth his own house;
he that annoys and worries his family and household by niggardliness, bad management, and captious ill temper. So the Son of Sirach writes (Ecclus. 4:30), "Be not as a lion in thy house, nor frantic (
, 'suspicious') among thy servants." Septuagint, "he who has no friendly intercourse (
ὁ μὴ συμπεριφερόμενος
) with his own house."
Shall inherit the wind;
he will be the loser in the end; no one will lend him a helping hand, and his affairs will fall to ruin.
- the man who acts thus foolishly - shall be
servant to the wise of heart;
to the man who administers his household matters in a better and more orderly manner (see on Proverbs 12:24). It is implied that the troubler of his own house shall be reduced to such extremity as to have to apply for relief to the wise of heart. The other side of the question is given by the Son of Sirach: "Unto the servant that is wise shall they that are free do service" (Ecclus. 10:25). The prodigal in the parable prayed his father to make him one of his hired servants (
The fruit of the righteous
a tree of life; and he that winneth souls
The fruit of righteousness
of the righteous
is a tree of life
, Vulgate. That which the righteous say and do is, as it were, a fruitful tree which delights and feeds many. A good man's example and teaching promote spiritual health and lead to immortal life. Septuagint, "From the fruit of righteousness springeth a tree of life."
And he that winneth souls is wise;
he that is wise winneth souls.
The latter member is parallel to the former. He who gives men of the tree of life attracts souls to himself, to listen to his teaching and to follow his example. With this "winning of souls" we may compare Christ's promise to the apostles that they should "catch men" (
). The Septuagint introduces an antithesis not found in our Hebrew text: "But the souls of transgressors are taken untimely away." Ewald and others change the present order of clauses in vers. 29 and 30, thinking thus to improve the parallelism. They would rearrange the passage in the following way: "He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind; but the fruit of the righteous is a tree of life. The foolish shall be servant to the wise of heart; but he that is wise winneth souls." There is no authority whatever in the versions or older commentators for this alteration; and the existing arrangement, as we have shown, gives a very good sense.
Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner.
The righteous shall be recompensed in the earth.
Them are two ways of understanding this verse. The word rendered "recompensed,"
), is a
, and can be taken either in a good or bad sense. So the meaning will be, "The righteous meets with his reward upon earth, much more the sinner," the "reward" of the latter being, of course, punishment. But the versions lead to another interpretation, by which "recompensed" is rendered "chastised;" and the meaning is - if even the righteous shall be punished for their trespasses, as Moses, David, etc., how much more the wicked! The Septuagint, quoted exactly by St. Peter (
1 Peter 4:18
) has, "If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?"
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