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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Proverbs 26

 

 

Verse 1

Proverbs 26:1

"As snow in summer, and as rain in harvest, So honor is not seemly for a fool."

In Proverbs 25:13, the cold of snow during harvest time was mentioned as a welcome blessing; but here snow in summer is considered as undesirable. Why? The cold of snow in Proverbs 25:13 was from snow stored up from the previous winter; here the reference is to a snowfall in summer. See comment under Proverbs 25:13.


Verse 2

"As the sparrow in her wandering, as the swallow in her flying, So the curse that is causeless alighteth not."

"The point of comparison here is the aimlessness of the birds' flight, or the uselessness of trying to catch them in their flight. So the causeless curse does not come; it spends itself in air and will not fall on the head on which it was invoked. A causeless curse is a curse uttered against one who does not deserve it."[1]


Verse 3

MORE PROVERBS REGARDING FOOLS

"A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, And a rod for the back of fools.

Answer not a fool according to his folly, Lest thou also be like unto him.

Answer a fool according to his folly, Lest he be wise in his own conceit.

He that sendeth a message by a fool cutteth off his own feet, and drinketh in damage.

The legs of the lame hang loose, So is a parable in the mouth of fools.

As one that bindeth a stone in a sling, So is he that giveth honor to a fool.

As a thorn that goeth up into the hand of a drunkard, So is a parable in the mouth of fools.

As an archer that woundeth all, So is he that hireth a fool and he that hireth them that pass by.

As a dog that returneth to his vomit, So is a fool that repeateth his folly.

Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool than of him."

Here we have a variation in Proverbs, a collection of verses regarding a single subject. The subject here is fools. Apparently Hezekiah's men, who sought out these proverbs from the writings of Solomon (Proverbs 25:1), decided to classify them!

This subject was apparently one of Solomon's favorites, We have already discussed this subject under the following verses: Proverbs 10:8,13,14,23; 12:1,8,15,23; 13:15,16; 14:6,7,8,15,16,18,24,33; 15:7,14,21; 17:10,12,24.[2] See our comments under those references. These verses are all in the same spirit of detestation of fools as are all the others.

Proverbs 26:4 and Proverbs 26:5 should not be viewed as a contradiction, but as a statement that one's answer to a fool should be governed by the circumstances, sometimes one way, sometimes another.

"Proverbs 25:13 presents the converse of Proverbs 26:6."[3] It is significant that the sentiment of these verses appears again and again in the New Testament. Peter quoted Proverbs 26:11a (2 Peter 2:22); and Paul quoted Proverbs 26:12a (Romans 12:16). The `fool' so often vigorously denounced in Proverbs should be identified as "wicked" rather than as a mental incompetent, as we have often pointed out. However, in this particular group of proverbs, Driver wrote that, "The folly described in these verses is intellectual."[4]


Verse 13

MORE PROVERBS REGARDING SLUGGARDS

"The sluggard saith there is a lion in the way; A lion is in the streets.

As the door turneth upon its hinges, So does the sluggard upon his bed.

The sluggard burieth his hand in the dish; It wearieth him to bring it again to his mouth.

The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit Than seven men that can render a reason."

"A lion is in the streets" (Proverbs 26:13). See our comment under Proverbs 22:13.

"As the door turneth upon its hinges" (Proverbs 26:14). "Just as the door moves on its hinges, but does not go anywhere, the sluggard turns over and over in his bed but does not get out of it and go anywhere to do any work."[5] See the comments under Proverbs 6:9,10, and under Proverbs 24:33.

Proverbs 26:15 is practically identical with Proverbs 19:24. See the comments there.

The meaning of Proverbs 26:16 is that, "The idle fool sets more value upon his own opinion than that of any number of wise men."[6]

We have already had many proverbs about the slothful or sluggards. See comments under: "Proverbs 6:6-11; 10:26; 11:16; 14:4; 15:19; 18:9; 19:15; 24:30-34; 31:27."[7] We are indebted to Tate for this list.


Verse 17

"He that passeth by, and vexes himself with strife not belonging to him, Is like someone that taketh a dog by the ears."

There is no Christian virtue any higher than that of refraining from meddling with other men's quarrels. If one wonders what it is like to take a dog by the ears, he should try it once. He will never try it again! It is the sure way to be bitten by the dog. There might be an exception to this in a small lap dog; but, "The dog in Palestine was not a domesticated animal; and to seize any dog was dangerous."[8]


Verse 18

"As a madman who casteth firebrands, Arrows, and death, So is the man that deceiveth his neighbor, And saith, am I not in jest?"

These verses expose the folly of deception as a form of entertainment. "The man who deceives his neighbor and then tries to pass it off as a joke, is like a madman, with no concern for the deadly consequences of his actions."[9]


Verse 20

"For lack of wood the fire goeth out; And where there is no whisperer contention ceaseth. As coals are to hot embers, and wood is to fire, So is a contentious man to inflame strife. The words of a whisperer are as dainty morsels, And they go down into the innermost parts."

Malicious gossip is the subject here. Many a dangerous quarrel has been fed and encouraged by talebearers and gossips who, as we might say, added fuel to the fire.

Proverbs 26:22 here is identical with Proverbs 18:8. See the comment there.

The last six verses of this chapter are labeled, "Hypocritical Words."[10] All of them deal with false and deceitful speech.


Verse 23

"Fervent lips and a wicked heart Are like an earthen vessel overlaid with silver dross.

He that hateth dissembleth with his lips; But he layeth up deceit within him:

When he speaketh fair, believe him not; For there are seven abominations in his heart.

Though his hatred cover itself with guile, His wickedness shall be openly showed before the assembly.

Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein; And he that rolleth a stone, it shall return upon him.

A lying tongue hateth them whom it hath wounded; And a flattering mouth worketh ruin."

"Fervent lips" (Proverbs 26:23). "Lips glorying with affection, uttering warm words of love."[11] Walls referred to Proverbs 26:17-28 here as, "A book of scoundrels";[12] and that is certainly what it is. Proverbs 26:24 speaks of the man who hates another, but flatters him with a view to finding some way to destroy him.

"Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein" (Proverbs 26:27). Haman who erected a gallows upon which he intended to hang Mordecai is the classical example of how true this proverb is. Haman himself was hanged on that gallows.

"He that rolleth a stone ... etc." (Proverbs 26:27). In ancient warfare heavy stones were rolled to the top of some eminence, where they could be released to cause damage or destruction to some attacker. Such a trap, set for others could also, under some change of circumstance, destroy the one that set it.

Proverbs 26:28 says that, "The lying tongue hates its victim"; and this pinpoints a strange perversity of human nature. One should avoid loaning money to friends; because, true to what is indicated here, the friend, if unable or unwilling to pay back the loan, invariably becomes an enemy of the man that befriended him. From this is a proverb that came not from Solomon. Loan money to a friend; and you will lose both the money and the friend. Of course, it doesn't always turn out that way.

 


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 26:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/proverbs-26.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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