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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Proverbs 18

 

 

Verse 1

Proverbs 18:1

"He that separateth himself seeketh his own desire, And rageth against all sound wisdom."

"The Hebrew text of the O.T. here yields no satisfactory sense."[1] Hooke preferred this; "A man who wishes to separate from friends seeks excuses; but at all times he will be liable to reproach."[2] Another various reading is, "The alienated friend seeks an occasion of quarrel to stir up strife."[3] We shall paraphrase the apparent meaning here: "When any man wishes to separate himself from former friends, he will seek some pretext for doing so; but his behavior is altogether reprehensible.


Verse 2

"A fool hath no delight in understanding, But only that his heart may reveal itself."

"A fool has no pleasure in what is reasonable, but only in self-display."[4] What is evident here is the inherent selfishness of the unregenerated soul.


Verse 3

"When the wicked cometh, there cometh also contempt, And with ignominy cometh reproach."

"Three inevitable traveling companions of wickedness are mentioned here: contempt, ignominy and reproach."[5] "These three terms for shame give triple emphasis to shame, which is the corollary of sin, the antithesis of which is glory, the corollary of holiness (Isaiah 6:3; Romans 8:30)."[6]


Verse 4

"The words of a man's mouth are as deep waters; The wellspring of wisdom is as a flowing brook."

The two clauses contrast man's teachings (the words of a man's mouth) with the true wisdom. "Deep waters in the Old Testament are associated with the thought of darkness and mystery (Psalms 59:2; Ecclesiastes 7:24; Proverbs 20:3)."[7] On the other hand, the true wisdom (God's Words) are like the happy sparkling waters of a flowing brook. Christ seems to have had this passage in mind (John 7:37-38) on that last day of the feast.


Verse 5

"To respect the person of the wicked is not good, Nor to turn aside the righteous in judgment."

"It is not good to show favor to the wicked or to deprive the righteous of justice."[8]


Verse 6

"A fool's lips enter into contention, And his mouth calleth for stripes."

"When some fool starts an argument, he is asking for a beating."[9] "When a stupid man talks, contention follows."[10] These translations are currently favored; but as the words stand, they also indicate that a fool joins in any controversy, calling for a judgment of stripes (scourging) upon others, not upon himself. When Jesus was crucified, the "fools" shouted, "Let him be crucified."


Verse 7

"A fool's mouth is his destruction, And his lips are the snare of his soul"

Again and again Proverbs returns to the dangers of irresponsible speech. For a full discussion of this, see James 3.


Verse 8

"The words of a whisperer are as dainty morsels, And they go down into the innermost parts."

"The words of a slanderer are like dainty morsels, swallowed and relished to the full."[11] The sinful delight of becoming the eager listener to slanderous talk is condemned in this proverb.


Verse 9

"He also that is slack in his work Is brother to him that is a destroyer."

"One by failing to get and the other by wasting what he has are brothers in that both their actions lead to poverty."[12]


Verse 10

"The name of Jehovah is a strong tower; The righteous runneth into it, and are safe."

"What a strong fortress is to the besieged, so is God to his persecuted, tempted and afflicted followers."[13]


Verse 11

"The rich man's wealth is his strong city, And as a high wall in his own imagination."

"The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it an unscalable wall."[14] Effective as wealth is for many purposes, it is an unspeakably poor security for one's soul. God help all wealthy persons to anticipate that hour when the death angel shall say, "Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee."[15]


Verse 12

"Before destruction the heart of man is haughty; And before honor goeth humility."

This proverb has the same thought as Proverbs 16:18 and Proverbs 15:33. Pride and haughtiness are frequently condemned in Proverbs; and humility is often cited as the necessary predecessor of honor.


Verse 13

"He that giveth answer before he heareth, It is folly and shame unto him."

"To answer a question before you have heard it out is both stupid and insulting."[16]


Verse 14

"The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; But a broken spirit who can bear?" "Spirit in this passage is the inner being of a man, the seat of his vigor and courage."[17] Men with a strong spirit are able to overcome misfortunes and even serious illness; but without such inner determination, faith and courage, it is much more difficult, or even impossible.


Verse 15

"The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; And the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge."

"We have a paradox here, that those who know the most know how little they know; and this is the same thought that Paul stressed in 1 Corinthians 8:2."[18]


Verse 16

"A man's gift maketh room for him, And bringeth him before great men."

Toy denied that there is any reference to a bribe here. What is meant is that gifts from benevolent people (such as a philanthropist) are effective in bringing many honors to the giver. "He thus has a free field, access,"[19] not only to `great men' but to respected institutions in society.


Verse 17

"He that pleadeth his cause first seemeth just; But his neighbor cometh and searcheth him out."

"The evidence of one person alone is not much to be depended upon; this is a variation of the old proverb that, `One tale is good till another is told.'"[20]


Verse 18

See comment under Proverbs 16:33, above.


Verse 19

"A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city; And such contentions are like the bars of a castle."

The meaning here is uncertain. The underlined words are not in the Hebrew but were added by the translators. "A brother helped by a brother is like a fortified city; he holds firm as the bars of a castle."[21] "Help your brother, and he will protect you like a strong city wall; but, if you quarrel with him, he will close his doors to you."[22] In the three versions cited here there is no complete agreement.


Verse 20

"A man's belly shall be filled with the fruit of his mouth; With the increase of his lips shall he be satisfied."

A proposed various reading by Toy has this, "From the fruit of the mouth comes requital to men; the outcome of the lips they must bear."[23] This proverb reminds us of the words of Jesus, "By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned" (Matthew 12:37).


Verse 21

"Death and life are in the power of the tongue; And they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof."

The thought here is parallel with the previous proverb; but it adds an inference that, "One should not fall in love with talking too much."


Verse 22

"Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, And obtaineth favor of Jehovah."

This writer has performed many wedding ceremonies, and this proverb was often quoted in the preliminary remarks.


Verse 23

"The poor useth entreaties; But the rich answereth roughly."

Here we have a proverb that states one of the realities of our earthly lives, although by no means a desirable one. "The poor man has to request things respectfully, hoping for help in his impoverished condition; but the rich man does not have to worry about the tone of his voice."[24] Sometimes a wealthy man will display a haughty attitude with little or no regard for the way in which his words may be received by others.


Verse 24

"He that maketh many friends doeth it to his own destruction; But there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."

There are two kinds of friends contrasted in this proverb. Those of the first clause are like the `friends' of the prodigal son while he was squandering his inheritance in the far country, those who drank his liquor and encouraged him to waste his substance, but who would not give him a crust of bread when he ran out of money.

The friend that sticketh closer than a brother is the true friend. Tate recommended the RSV here as, "A reasonable attempt to reconstruct a difficult verse."[25] "There are friends who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."[26]

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Proverbs 18:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/proverbs-18.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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