Proverbs 15 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Proverbs 15
Pulpit Commentary
A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
Verse 1. - A soft answer turneth away wrath. Two things are here to be observed: an answer should be given - the injured person should not wrap himself in sullen silence; and that answer should be gentle and conciliatory. This is tersely put in a mediaeval rhyme -

"Frangitur ira gravis
Quando est respensio suavis."

"Anger, however great,
Is checked by answer sweet."
Septuagint, "A submissive (ὑποπίπτουσα) answer averteth wrath." Thus Abigail quelled the excessive anger of David by her judicious submission (1 Samuel 25:24, etc.). But grievous words stir up anger. A word that causes vexation makes anger rise the higher.

Ὁργῆς ματαίας εἰσὶν αἰτιοι λόγοι.

"Of empty anger words are oft the cause."
The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.
Verse 2. - The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright. This means either, brings it forth opportunely, it the right time and place, or illustrates it, makes it beautiful and pleasant, as ver. 13. The wise man not only has knowledge, but can give it appropriate expression (comp. Proverbs 16:23). Vulgate, "The tongue of the wise adorneth wisdom." The wise man, by producing his sentiments and opinions in appropriate language and on proper occasions, commends wisdom, and renders it acceptable to his hearers. Septuagint, "The tongue of the wise knoweth what is fair (καλά)." But the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness (ver. 28). A fool cannot open his mouth without exposing his folly; he speaks without due consideration or discretion; as the Vulgate terms it, ebullit, "he bubbles over," like a boiling pot, which emits its contents inopportunely and uselessly. Septuagint, "The mouth of fools proclaimeth evil."
The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.
Verse 3. - The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding - keeping watch on - the evil and the good. The omnipresence and omniscience of Jehovah, the covenant God, is strongly insisted upon, and the sacred name recurs continually in this and the next chapter, and indeed throughout this Book of the Proverbs (see Wordsworth, in loc.). The LXX. renders the verb σκοπεύοιυσι "are watching," as from a tower or high place. To the usual references we may add Ecclus. 15:18, 19 Ecclus. 23:19, 20. Corn. a Lapide quotes Prudentius's hymn, used in the Latin Church at Thursday Lauds -

"Speculator adstat desuper,
Qui nos diebus omnibus
Actusque nostros prospicit
A luce prima in vesperum."

"For God our Maker, ever nigh,
Surveys us with a watchful eye;
Our every thought and act he knows,
From early dawn to daylight's close."
A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.
Verse 4. - A wholesome tongue is a tree of life; a tongue that brings healing, that soothes by its words. Septuagint, "the healing of the tongue." But the Vulgate rendering is better, lingua placabilis, "the gentle, mild tongue" (see on Proverbs 14:30). Speech from such a source refreshes and vivifies all who come under its influence, like the wholesome fruit of a prolific tree (comp. Proverbs 3:18; Proverbs 11:30).

Ψυχῆς νοσούσης ἐστὶ φάρμακον λόγος

"The sick soul by a healing word is cured." But perverseness therein - in the tongue - is a breach in the spirit. The perverseness intended must be falsehood, perversion of the truth. This is ruin and vexation (Isaiah 65:14, where the same word is used) in the spirit, both in the liar himself, whose higher nature is thus terribly marred and spoiled, and in the case of his neighbour, who is injured by his slander and falsehood to the, very core. The LXX., with a different reading, translates, "But he who keepeth it [the tongue] shall be filled with the spirit."
A fool despiseth his father's instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent.
Verse 5. - A fool despiseth his father's instruction (Proverbs 10:1): but he that regardeth reproof is prudent (Proverbs 19:25). The son who attends to his father's reproof dealeth prudently, or becomes wiser. Astutior fiet, Vulgate; πανουργότερος, Septuagint. The Vulgate has here a distich which is not in the Hebrew, but a similar paragraph is found in the Septuagint. Thus Vulgate, "In the abundance of righteousness virtue is greatest; but the imaginations of the wicked shall be rooted up;" Septuagint, "In the abundance of righteousness is much strength; but the impious shall be destroyed from the very root." The addition seems to have been an explanation of the following verse, which has been foisted into the text here.
In the house of the righteous is much treasure: but in the revenues of the wicked is trouble.
Verse 6. - In the house of the righteous is much treasure (chosen; see on Proverbs 27:24). The good man's store is not wasted or wrongly used, and is blest by God: and therefore, whether absolutely much or little, it is safe, and it is sufficient. In a spiritual sense, the soul of the righteous is filled with graces and adorned with good works. Septuagint, "In the houses of the righteous is much strength;" plurima fortitudo, Vulgate. But in the revenues of the wicked is trouble. Great revenues acquired by wrong or expended badly bring only trouble, vexation, and ruin upon a man and his family. Septuagint, "The fruits of the wicked shall perish." Spiritually, the works of the wicked cause misery to themselves and others.
The lips of the wise disperse knowledge: but the heart of the foolish doeth not so.
Verse 7. - The lips of the wise disperse knowledge (ver. 2; Proverbs 10:31). The LXX. takes the verb יִרָוּ in its other signification of "binding" or "embracing," and translates, "The lips of the wise are bound (δέδεται) with knowledge;" i.e. knowledge is always on them and controls their movements. The wise know when to speak, when to be silent, and what to say. But the heart of the foolish doeth not so; i.e. doth not disperse knowledge. Vulgate, cor stultorum dissimile erit, "will be unlike," which probably means the same as the Authorized Version. (Compare a similar use of the words lo-ken in Genesis 48:18; Exodus 10:11.) But the contrast is stated rather weakly by this rendering, lips and heart having the same office to perform; hence it is better, with Delitzsch, Ewald, and others, to take כֵן (ken) as an adjective in the sense of "right" or "trustworthy," and either to supply the former verb, "disperseth that which is not right," or to render, "The heart of the foot is not directed right;" the fool goes astray, and leads himself and others into error. Septuagint, "The hearts of fools are not safe (ἀσφαλεῖς)."
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight.
Verse 8. - The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination unto the Lord. The costly sacrifice of the wicked is contrasted with the prayer, unaccompanied with sacrifice, of the upright. The first clause occurs again in Proverbs 21:27, and virtually in Proverbs 28:9. But in the latter passage the prayer of the wicked is denounced as abomination. Sacrifice, as legal and ceremonial, would be more naturally open to the charge of deadness and unreality; while prayer, as spontaneous and not legally enjoined, might be deemed less liable to for realism; all the more hateful, therefore, it is if not offered from the heart. The worthlessness of external worship without obedience and devotion of the heart is often urged by the prophets (see 1 Samuel 15:22; Isaiah 1:11, etc.; Jeremiah 6:20; Hosea 5:6; Amos 5:22; see also Ecclus. 31:18, etc.). The lesson was needed that the value of sacrifice depended upon the mind and disposition of the offerer, the tendency being to rest in the opus operatum, as if the external action was all that was necessary to make the worshipper accepted. This text was wrested by the Donatists to support their notion of the inefficacy of heretical baptism. St. Augustine replied that the validity of the sacrament depended not on the spiritual condition of the minister, but on the appointment of Christ. The text has also been applied to confirm the opinion that all the acts of unjustified man are sin. The truer view is that God's grace does act beyond the limits of his visible Church, and that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit concurs with the free will of man before he is formally justified. The second clause recurs virtually in ver. 29.
The way of the wicked is an abomination unto the LORD: but he loveth him that followeth after righteousness.
Verse 9. - This verse gives the reason for the treatment specified in the preceding verse (comp. Proverbs 11:20; Proverbs 12:22). Followeth after; chaseth, implying effort and perseverance, as in the pursuit of game (Proverbs 11:19; Proverbs 21:21).
Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die.
Verse 10. - Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way. The verse is climacteric, and the first clause is better translated, There is a grievous correction for him that forsaketh the way; then the second clause denotes what that correction is: he that hateth reproof - i.e. he that forsaketh the way - shall die. "The way" is the path of goodness and righteousness (Proverbs 2:13). "The way of life." the Vulgate calls it; so Proverbs 10:17. Ecclesiastes 21:6, "He that hateth reproof is in the way of sinners." The Authorized Version is quite allowable, and is supported in some degree by the Vulgate, Doctrina mala deserenti viam vitae. The sinner is annoyed by discipline, correction, or true teaching, because they curb the indulgence of his passions, make him uneasy in conscience, and force him to look to future issues. Septuagint, "The instruction of the guileless (ἀκάκου) is known by passers-by; but they who hate reproofs die shamefully." The Syriac adopts the same rendering; but it is a question whether the word ought not to be κακοῦ. Menander says -

Ὁ μὴ δαρεὶς ἄνθρωπος οὐ παιδεύεται.

"Man unchastised learns naught."
Hell and destruction are before the LORD: how much more then the hearts of the children of men?
Verse 11. - Hell and destruction are before the Lord. The two words rendered "hell" and "destruction" are respectively Sheol and Abaddon, Infernus and Perditio, Ἅιδης and ἀπώλεια (comp. Proverbs 27:20). The former is used generally as the place to which the souls of the dead are consigned - the receptacle of all departed spirits, whether good or bad. Abaddon is the lowest depth of hell, the "abyss" of Luke 8:31; Revelation 9:2, etc.; 20:l, etc. The clause means that God's eye penetrates even the most secret corners of the unseen world. As Job (Job 26:6) says, "Sheol is naked before him, and Abaddon hath no covering" (comp. Psalm 139:7, etc.). How much more then the hearts of the children of men? (For the form of the expression, comp. Proverbs 11:31 and Proverbs 19:7; and for the import, Proverbs 16:2; Proverbs 21:2; Jeremiah 17:10.) If God knows the secrets of the world beyond the grave, much more does he know the secret thoughts of men on earth. The heart is the source of action (see Matthew 15:19, etc.).
A scorner loveth not one that reproveth him: neither will he go unto the wise.
Verse 12. - A scorner loveth not one that reproveth him (Proverbs 9:8; Amos 5:10). For "scorner" the Vulgate has pestilens, and the Septuagint ἀπαίδευτος, "undisciplined." "Scorners" are spoken of elsewhere, as Proverbs 1:22 (where see note); they are conceited, arrogant persons, free-thinkers, indifferent to or sceptical of religion, and too self-opinionated to be open to advice or reproof. Neither will he go unto the wise, who would correct and teach him (Proverbs 13:20). Septuagint, "He will not converse (ὁμιλήσει) with the wise." He does not believe the maxim -

Σοφοῦ παρ ἀνδρὸς χρὴ σοφόν τι μανθάνειν.

"From a wise man you must some wisdom learn." A Latin adage runs -

"Argue consultum, te diliget: argue stultum
Avertet vultum, nec te dimittet iuultum."
A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.
Verse 13. - A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance. The face is the index of the condition of the mind.

"In the forehead and the eye
The lecture of the mind doth lie."
And, again, "A blithe heart makes a blooming visage" (comp. Ecelus. 13:25, etc.). Septuagint, "When the heart is glad, the face bloometh (θάλλει)." But by sorrow of heart the spirit is broken (Proverbs 12:25). Happiness is shown in the outward look, but sorrow has a deeper and more abiding influence; it touches the inner life, destroys the natural elasticity, creates despondency and despair (comp. Proverbs 16:24; Proverbs 17:22). Corn. a Lapide quotes St. Gregory Nazianzen's definition -

"Laetitia quidnam? Mentis est diffusio.
Tristitia? Cordis morsus et turbatio."
Hitzig and others translate the second clause, "But in sorrow of heart is the breath oppressed." It is doubtful if the words can be so rendered, and certainly the parallelism is not improved thereby.
The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness.
Verse 14. - The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge (Proverbs 18:15). The wise man knows that he knows nothing, and is always seeking to learn more.

Σοφία γάρ ἐστι καὶ μαθεῖν ο} μὴ νοεῖς

"To learn what thou hast never thought is wisdom." The mouth of fools. Another reading, is "the face of fools;" but the former is more suitable to what follows. Feedeth on foolishness. So the Vulgate and Septuagint, "The mouth of the undisciplined knoweth evil." The fool is always gaping and devouring every silly, or slanderous, or wicked word that comes in his way, and in his turn utters and disseminates it.
All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.
Verse 15. - All the days of the afflicted are evil. "The days of the poor are evil," says the Talmud ('Dukes,' 73); but in our verse the contrasted clause restricts the sense of "the afflicted" to mental, not material, evil. The Vulgate pauperis gives a wrong impression. The persons intended are such as take a gloomy view of things, who are always in low spirits, and cannot rise superior to present circumstances. These never have a happy moment; they are always taking anxious thought (Matthew 6:25), and forecasting evil. The LXX., reading עיני for עני, translates, "At all times the eyes of the evil expect evil." But he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast. The cheerful man's condition is a banquet unceasingly, a fixed state of joy and contentment. Septuagint, "But the righteous are at peace always;" Vulgate, "A secure mind is like a perpetual feast." "For," says St. Gregory ('Moral,' 12:44), "the mere repose of security is like the continuance of refreshment. Whereas, on the other hand, the evil mind is always set in pains and labours, since it is either contriving mischiefs that it may bring down, or fearing lest these be brought down upon it by others." Our own proverb says, "A contented mind is a continual feast."
Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith.
Verse 16. - Better is little with the fear of the Lord. The good man's little store, which bears upon it the blessing of the Lord, is better than great treasure and trouble therewith, i.e. with the treasure (Proverbs 16:8; Psalm 37:16). The trouble intended is the care and labour and anxiety attending the pursuit and preservation of wealth. "Much coin, much care" (comp. Ecclesiastes 6:4). It was good advice of the old moralist, "Sis pauper honeste potius quam dives male; Namque hoc fert crimen, illud misericordiam." Vulgate, thesauri magni et insatiabiles, "treasures which satisfy not;" Septuagint, "Great treasures without fear (of the Lord)." Christ's maxim is, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33).
Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.
Verse 17. - Better is a dinner (portion) of herbs where love is. A dish of vegetables would be the common meal, whereas flesh would be reserved for festive occasions. Where love presides, the simplest food is cheerfully received, and contentment and happiness abound (Proverbs 17:1). Lesetre quotes Horace's invitation to his friend Torquatus ('Epist.,' 1:5. 1) -

"Si potes Archiacis conviva recumbere lectis,
Nec modica cenare times olus omne patella,
Supreme te sole domi, Torquate, manebo."

"If, dear Torquatus, you can rest your head
On couches such as homely Archias made,
Nor on a dish of simple pot herbs frown,
I shall expect you as the sun goes down."

(Howes.) So the old jingle -

"Cum dat oluscula menes minuscula pace quieta,
Ne pete grandia lautaque prandia lite repleta."
A stalled ox is one taken up out of the pasture and fatted for the table. Thus we read (1 Kings 4:23) that part of Solomon's provision for one day was ten fat oxen and twenty oxen out of the pastures; and the prophets speak of "calves of the stall" (Amos 6:4; Malachi 4:2; comp. Luke 15:23). The fat beef implies a sumptuous and magnificent entertainment; but such a feast is little worth if accompanied with feelings of hatred, jealousy, and ill will. This and the preceding verse emphasize and explain ver. 15.
A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.
Verse 18. - A wrathful man stirreth up strife (contention). This clause recurs almost identically in Proverbs 29:22 (comp. also Proverbs 26:21 and Proverbs 28:25). He that is slow to anger appeaseth strife (Proverbs 14:29). In the former clause the word for "contention" is madon, in the latter "strife" is rib, which often means "law dispute." It requires two to make a quarrel, and where one keeps his temper and will not be provoked, anger must subside. Vulgate, "He who is patient soothes aroused quarrels (suscitatas)." Septuagint, "A long suffering man appeases even a coming battle."

"Regina rerum omnium patientia." The LXX. here introduces a second rendering of the verse: "A long suffering man will quench suits; but the impious rather awaketh them."
The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain.
Verse 19. - The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns. The indolent sluggard is always finding or imagining difficulties and hindrances in his path, which serve as excuses for his laziness. The word for "thorn" here is chedek. It occurs elsewhere only in Micah 7:4, where the Authorized Version has "briar;" but the particular plant intended is not ascertained. Most writers consider it to be some spinous specimen of the solanum. The word refers, it is thought, to a class of plants the name of one of which, at least, the miscalled "apple of Sodom," is well known in poetry, and is a proverbial expression for anything which promises fair but utterly disappoints on trial. "This plant, which is really a kind of potato, grows everywhere in the warmer parts of Palestine, rising to a widely branching shrub from three to five feet high; the wood thickly set with spines; the flower like that of the potato, and the fruit, which is larger than the potato apple, perfectly round, and changing from yellow to bright red as it ripens.... The osher of the Arab is the true apple of Sodom. A very tropical-looking plant, its fruit is like a large smooth apple or orange, and hangs in clusters of three or four together. When ripe, it is yellow, and looks fair and attractive, and is soft to the touch, but if pressed, it bursts with a crack, and only the broken shell and a raw of small seeds in a half-open pod, with a few dry filaments, remain in the hand" (Geikie, 'Holy Land and Bible,' 2:74, 117). Cato, 'Dist.,' 54:3, 5 -

"Segnitiem fugito, quae vitae ignavia fertur;
Nam quum animus languet, consumit inertia corpus."
To the sluggard is opposed the righteous in the second member, because indolence is a grievous sin, and the greatest contrast to the active industry of the man who fears God and does his duty. The way of the righteous is made plain; "is a raised causeway;" selulah, as Proverbs 16:17: Isaiah 40:3; Isaiah 49:11. The upright man, who treads the path appointed for him resolutely and trustfully, finds all difficulties vanish; before him the thorns yield a passage; and that which the sluggard regarded as dangerous and impassable becomes to him as the king's highway. Vulgate, "The path of the just is without impediment;" Septuagint, "The roads of the manly (ἀνδρείων) are well beaten." St. Gregory ('Moral.,' 30:51), "Whatever adversity may have fallen in their way of life, the righteous stumble not against it. Because with the bound of eternal hope, and of eternal contemplation, they leap over the obstacles of temporal adversity" (comp. Psalm 18:29).
A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man despiseth his mother.
Verse 20-ch. 19:25. - Third section of this collection. Verse 20. - (For this verse, see Proverbs 10:1.) A foolish man despiseth his mother, and therefore is "heaviness" to her. Or the verb may mean "shameth." "A foolish man" is literally "a fool of a man."
Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom: but a man of understanding walketh uprightly.
Verse 21. - Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom; literally, void of heart; i.e. of understanding (Proverbs 10:23). The perverse, self-willed fool finds pleasure in going on his evil way, and exposing the fatuity which he takes for wisdom. Septuagint, "The ways of the senseless are wanting in intelligence." A man of understanding walketh uprightly; goes the right way. It is implied that the fool goes the wrong way.
Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellers they are established.
Verse 22. - Without counsel - where no counsel is - purposes are disappointed (Proverbs 11:14); there can be no concerted action, or the means used are not the best that could be devised. Hesiod, Theog., 293 -

Ἐσθλὸς δ αϋ κἀκεῖνος ο{ς εϋ εἰπὸ´ντι πίθηται
 {Ος δὲ κε μήτ αὐτὸς νοέῃ μήτ ἄλλου ἀκούων
Ἐν θυμῷ βάλληται ὁ δ αϋτ ἀχρήιος ἀνήρ (Comp. Proverbs 20:18.) In the multitude of counsellors they are established (Proverbs 24:6). We read of "counsellors" as almost regular officials in the Hebrew court, as in modern kingdoms (see 1 Chronicles 27:32; Isaiah 1:26; Micah 4:9; comp. Ezra 7:28). There is, of course, the danger of secrets being divulged where counsellors are many; and there is Terence's maxim to fear, "Quot heroines, tot sententiae;" but, properly guarded and discreetly used, good counsel is above all price. Septuagint, "They who honour not councils (συνέδρια) lay aside (ὑπερτίθενται) conclusions (i.e. put off coming to any definite decision); but in the hearts of those who consult counsel abideth" (compare the parallel clause, Proverbs 19:21).
A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!
Verse 23 - A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth. The idea of the preceding verse concerning counsel is maintained. A counsellor gives wise and skilful advice, or makes a timely speech; and, knowing how much harm is done by rash or evil words, he naturally rejoices that he has been able to be useful, and has avoided the errors which the tongue is liable to incur. A word spoken in due season, sermo opportunus, is advice given at the right moment and in the most suitable manner, when the occasion and the interests at stake demand it (comp. Proverbs 25:11). The LXX. connects this verse with the preceding, and renders, "The evil man will not hearken to it (counsel), nor will he say aught in season or for the public good."
The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath.
Verse 24. - The way of life is above to the wise; Revised Version, to the wise the way of life goeth upward. The writer means primarily that the wise and good lead such a life as to preserve them from death (Proverbs 14:32). The path may be steep and painful, but at any rate it has this compensation - it leads away from destruction. It is obvious to read into the passage higher teaching. The good man's path leads heavenward, to a high life here, to happiness hereafter; his conversation is in heaven (Philippians 3:20), his affections are set on things above (Colossians 3:2). Such an upward life tends to material and spiritual health, as it is added, that he may depart from hell (SheoI) beneath. Primarily, a long and happy life is promised to the man who fears the Lord, as in Proverbs 3:16; secondarily, such a one avoids that downward course which ends in the darkness of hell. Vulgate, "The path of life is above the instructed man, to make him avoid the nethermost (novissimo) hell;" Septuagint, "The thoughts of the prudent man are the ways of life, that turning from Hades he may be safe."
The LORD will destroy the house of the proud: but he will establish the border of the widow.
Verse 25. - The Lord will destroy the house of the proud (ch. 12:7; 14:11; 16:18). The proud, self-confident man, with his family and household and wealth, shall be rooted up. The heathen saw how retribution overtook the arrogant. Thus Euripides says ('Heracl.,' 387) -

Τῶν φρονημάτων
Ὁ Ζεὺς κολαστὴς τῶν ἄγαν ὑπερφρόνων

"Zeus, the chastiser of too haughty thoughts." But he will establish the border of the widow. He will take the widow under his protection, and see that her landmark is not removed, and that her little portion is secured to her. The widow is taken as the type of weakness and desolation, as often in Scripture (comp. Deuteronomy 10:18; Psalm 146:9). In a country where property was defined by landmarks - stones or some such objects - nothing was easier than to remove these altogether, or to alter their position. That this was a common form of fraud and oppression we gather from the stringency of the enactments against the offence (see Deuteronomy 19:14; Deuteronomy 27:17; and comp. Job 24:2; Proverbs 22:28). In the Babylonian and Assyrian inscriptions which have been preserved, there are many invoking curses, curious and multifarious, against the disturbers of boundaries. Such marks were considered sacred and inviolable by the Greeks and Romans (see Plato, 'De Leg.,' 8:842, 843; Ovid, 'Fast.,' 2:639, etc.).
The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD: but the words of the pure are pleasant words.
Verse 26. - The thoughts of the wicked (or, evil devices) are an abomination to the Lord. Although the Decalogue, by forbidding coveting, showed that God's Law touched the thought of the heart as well as the outward action, the idea here refers to wicked plans or designs, rather than emphatically to the secret movements of the mind. These have been noticed in ver. 11. But the words of the pure are pleasant words; literally, pure are words of pleasantness; i.e. words of soothing, comforting tone are, not an abomination to the Lord, as are the devices of the wicked, but they are pure in a ceremonial sense, as it were, a pure and acceptable offering. Revised Version, pleasant words are pure. Vulgate, "Speech pure and pleasant is approved by him" - which is a pharaphrase of the clause. Septuagint, "The words of the pure are honoured (σεμναί)."
He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live.
Verse 27. - He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house (Proverbs 11:29). The special reference is doubtless to venal judges, who wrested judgment for lucre. Such malefactors were often reproved by the prophets (see Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 10:1, etc.; Micah 3:11; Micah 7:3). But all ill-gotten gain brings sure retribution. The Greeks have many maxims to this effect. Thus -

Κέρδη πομηρὰ ζημίαν ἀεὶ φέρει And again -

Τὰ δ αἰσχρὰ κέρδη συμφορὰς ἐργάζεται

"Riches ill won bring ruin in their train." An avaricious man troubles his house in another sense. He harasses his family by niggardly economies and his domestics by overwork and underfeeding, deprives his household of all comfort, and loses the blessing of God upon a righteous use of earthly wealth. The word "troubleth" (akar, "to trouble") reminds one of the story of Achan, who, in his greed, appropriated some of the spoil of the banned city Jericho, and brought destruction upon himself and his family, when, in punishment of the crime, he and all his were stoned in the Valley of Achor (Joshua 7:25). So the covetousness of Gehazi caused the infliction of the penalty of leprosy upon himself and his children (2 Kings 5:27). Professor Plumptre ('Speaker's Commentary,' in loc.) notes that the Chaldee Targum paraphrases this clause, referring especially to lucre gained by unrighteous judgments, thus: "He who gathers the mammon of unrighteousness destroys his house;" and he suggests that Christ's use of that phrase (Luke 16:9) may have had some connection with this proverb through the version then popularly used in the Palestinian synagogues. He that hateth gifts shall live (comp. Ecclesiastes 7:7). Primarily this refers to the judge or magistrate who is incorruptible, and gives just judgment, and dispenses his patronage without fear or favour; he shall "prolong his days" (Proverbs 28:16), And in all cases a man free from covetousness, who takes no bribes to blind his eyes withal, who makes no unjust gains, shall pass a long and happy life undisturbed by care. We see here a hope of immortality, to which integrity leads. The LXX., with the view of making the two clauses more marked in antithesis, restricts the application thus: "The receiver of gifts destroyeth himself; but he who hateth the receiving of gifts liveth." The Vulgate and Septuagint, after this verse, introduce a distich which recurs in Proverbs 16:6. The Septuagint transposes many of the verses at the end of this chapter and the beginning of the next.
The heart of the righteous studieth to answer: but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things.
Verse 28. - The heart of the righteous studieth to answer. The good man deliberates before he speaks, takes time to consider his answer, lest he should say anything false, or inexpedient, or injurious to his neighbour. A Latin adage runs -

"Qui bene vult fari debet bene praemeditari." Says Theognis -

Βουλεύου δὶς καὶ τρίς ὅτοί κ ἐπὶ τὸν νόον
Ἀτηρὸς γὰρ ἀεὶ λάβρος ἀνὴρ τελέθει

"Whate'er comes in your mind, deliberate;
A hasty man but rushes on his fate."
Septuagint, "The heart of the prudent will meditate πίστεις," which may mean "truth," "fidelity," or "proofs." The Vulgate has "obedience," implying attention to the inward warnings of conscience and grace, before the mouth speaks. Poureth out (ver. 2). The wicked man never considers; evil is always on his lips and running over from his mouth. Septuagint, "The mouth of the ungodly answereth evil things." The LXX. here inserts ch. 16:7.
The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.
Verse 29. - The Lord is far from the wicked. The maxim is similar to that in ver. 8 and John 9:31, "We know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and do his will, him he heareth." God is said to be "far" in the sense of not listening, not regarding with favour (comp. Psalm 10:1). His attention to the righteous is seen in Psalm 145:18, 19. The LXX. introduces here Proverbs 16:8, 9.
The light of the eyes rejoiceth the heart: and a good report maketh the bones fat.
Verse 30. - The light of the eyes rejoiceth the heart (Proverbs 16:15). The beaming glance that shows a pure, happy mind and a friendly disposition, rejoices the heart of him on whom it is turned. There is something infectious in the guileless, joyful look of a happy man or child, which has a cheering effect upon those who observe it. The LXX. makes the sentiment altogether personal: "The eye that seeth what is good rejoiceth the heart." A good report (good tidings) maketh the bones fat; strengthens them and gives them health (comp. Proverbs 3:8; Proverbs 16:24). Sight and hearing are compared in the two clauses, "bones" in the latter taking the place of "heart" in the former. The happy look and good news alike cause joy of heart.
The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise.
Verse 31. - The ear that heareth (hearkeneth to) the reproof of life abideth among the wise (Proverbs 6:23). The reproof, or instruction, of life is that which teaches the true way of pleasing God, which is indeed the only life worth living. The ear, by synecdoche, is put for the person. One who attends to and profits by such admonition may be reckoned among the wise, and rejoices to be conversant with them. Wordsworth finds a more recondite sense here: the ear of the wise dwells, lodges, passes the night (Proverbs 19:23) in their heart, whereas the heart of fools is in their mouth (Proverbs 14:33). This verse is omitted in the Septuagint, though it is found in the other Greek versions and the Latin Vulgate.
He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.
Verse 32. - This verse carries on and puts the climax to the lesson of the preceding. He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul; "hateth himself," Septuagint; commits moral suicide, because he does not follow the path of life. He is like a sick man who thrusts away (ἀπωθεῖται, Septuagint) the wholesome medicine which is his only hope of cure. He that heareth (listeneth to) reproof getteth understanding; literally, possesseth a heart, and therefore does not despise his soul, but "loves it" (Proverbs 19:8), as the LXX. renders.
The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.
Verse 33. - The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; that which leads to and gives wisdom (see Proverbs 1:3, 7, etc.; Proverbs 9:10). 'Pirke Aboth,' 3:26, "No wisdom, no fear of God; no fear of God, no wisdom. No knowledge, no discernment; no discernment, no knowledge." Before honour is humility (Proverbs 18:12). A man who fears God must be humble, and as the fear of God leads to wisdom, it may be said that humility leads to the honour and glory of being wise and reckoned among the wise (ver. 31). A man with a lowly opinion of himself will hearken to the teaching of the wise, and scrupulously obey the Law of God, and will be blessed in his ways. For "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble" (James 4:6; comp. Luke 1:52). The maxim in the second clause has a general application. "He that shall humble himself shall be exalted" (Matthew 23:12; comp. Luke 14:11; James 4:6). It is sanctioned by the example of Christ himself, the Spirit itself testifying beforehand his sufferings that were to precede his glory (1 Peter 1:11; see also Philippians 2:5, etc.). Septuagint, "The fear of the Lord is discipline and wisdom, and the beginning of glory shall answer to it." Another reading adds, "Glory goeth before the humble," which is explained to mean that the humble set before their eyes the reward that awaits their humility, and patiently endure, like Christ, "who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2).

Courtesy of Open Bible