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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Proverbs 18

 

 

Verse 1

Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom.

Through desire (through self-willed and self-seeking desire of wisdom) a man, having separated himself (from other men), seeketh (and) intermeddleth with all wisdom - Hebrew, tuwshiyaah (Hebrew #8454): literally, all that is solid and stable: subsistence, essence, existence. The Pharisees were such; from the Hebrew, paarash (Hebrew #6567), 'to separate.' They trusted in themselves, and in their own wisdom, despising others (Luke 18:9; Luke 16:15; Jude 1:19). All heresy has more or less originated in the self-conceit which leads men to separate themselves from the congregation of the Lord (Ezekiel 14:7; Hosea 9:10; Hebrews 10:25). Maurer translates, 'He who separateth himself seeketh after his desire.' The English version equally suits the Hebrew, and the "seeketh" is more expressive indefinitely taken. The two evils censured are:

(1) That of those who think that they are born for themselves, and ought to live and die for themselves, and that others ought to be ministers of their self-seeking desires.

(2) That of those who intermeddle with what does not concern them.

The motive is "through (his own) desire" of being esteemed singularly learned, as Proverbs 18:2 shows, not from sincere "delight in understanding." His aim is singularity through self-seeking "desire" (Psalms 10:3; Psalms 112:10) of raising himself to a separate elevation from the common crowd, and of being thought versed in all that can be known: so he "intermeddleth with all wisdom." His restless appetite for making himself special and separate from others is marked by the indefinite verb "seeketh," it not being added what he seeketh, for he hardly knows himself what, but certainly not peace, charity, and humility: he foolishly affects a monopoly of wisdom.


Verse 2

A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself. A fool hath no delight in understanding (for its own sake), but that his heart may discover itself. Display of self is his aim.


Verse 3

When the wicked cometh, then cometh also contempt, and with ignominy reproach.

When the wicked cometh, then cometh (also) contempt. When the wicked cometh among wise men, he cometh not to learn but to throw contempt on all persons and all things, especially on the godly.

And with ignominy reproach. The wicked cherishes contempt in his mind; throws ignominy on others, in gesture and act; and casts reproach with words. All three, by just retribution in kind, recoil on himself.


Verse 4

The words of a man's mouth are as deep waters, and the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook.

The words of a man's mouth (are as) deep waters - i:e., a wise man's words, as the parallel clause shows. The Hebrew is 'iysh (Hebrew #376), a good man; not 'aadaam (Hebrew #120), the general term for man. His words are deep: not merely on the surface for display, like the fool's (Proverbs 18:1-2).

The well-spring of wisdom - inexhaustible, ever-flowing, not soon run dry, like the fool's shallow knowledge. There is a depth in it not easily fathomed.


Verse 5

It is not good to accept the person of the wicked, to overthrow the righteous in judgment.

It is not good to accept the person of the wicked-to show partiality to them, so as-to overthrow the righteous in judgment.


Verse 6

A fool's lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes.

A fool's lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes - by his contentiousness of mouth he brings "strokes" on himself.


Verse 7

A fool's mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.

A fool's ... lips (are) the snare of his soul. He is ruined by his own recklessness and wantonness of speech.


Verse 8

The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.

The words of a talebearer are as wounds - `piercing' like a 'sword,' (Proverbs 12:18; cf. margin). [The participle in the Hebrew stands for a noun, from laaham (Hebrew #3859), by metathesis for haalam, to wound]. Or, 'as blandishments' (from the Hebrew, laham, to blandish). Maurer, 'As delicate morsels,' from a root laham, 'eagerly to swallow.' (Compare Psalms 55:21.) They insinuate themselves under a smooth appearance, but - "they go down into the innermost parts of the belly".

They go down into the innermost parts of the belly. The talebearer's story wounds at once him whom he detracts and him before whom he utters the detraction. Though the hearer may seem to make light of it, yet the poison 'goes down' deeply, and leaves in him a suspicion, distrust, dislike.


Verse 9

He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.

He also that is slothful (literally, remiss) in his work is brother to him that is a great waster - literally, 'him He also that is slothful (literally, remiss) in his work is brother to him that is a great waster - literally, 'him that is a lord of wasting;' i:e., who is wholly given up to it. The slothful and the wasteful are twin-brothers. The slothful wastes his own property and that of others. 'Idleness is the mother of hunger and the sister of theft.'


Verse 10

The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.

The name of the Lord (i:e., the Lord Himself in His manifested goodness and power) (is) a strong tower (a tower of strength): the righteous runneth into it (when calamity, threatens), and is safe - literally, 'and is set on high' above his enemies (Psalms 59:1; Psalms 69:29). He shall there be safe as in a high citadel (Isaiah 26:1).


Verse 11

The rich man's wealth is his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit.

The rich man's wealth (is) his strong city (Proverbs 10:15), and as an high wall in his own conceit - in contrast to the righteous man's "strong tower," "the name of the Lord," in which he is "set on high" in safety (Proverbs 18:10). It is infinitely better to "trust in the living God" than "in uncertain riches" (1 Timothy 6:17).


Verse 12

Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility.

Before destruction the heart of man is haughty (Proverbs 16:18) and before honour is humility (Proverbs 15:33). Humility is the forerunner of honour. High climbers are apt to fall, and their fall is the heavier the higher they have climbed.


Verse 13

He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him. He that answereth a matter before he heareth (it) - i:e., before he understandeth what the other hath said. So 'hear' means understand, Deuteronomy 28:49.

It (is) folly and shame unto him - (Sirach 11:8, 'Answer not before thou hast heard the cause, neither interrupt men in the midst of their talk.') Self-seeking and self-importance are generally the cause of such interruptions.


Verse 14

The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?

The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity (of body): but a wounded spirit who can bear? It is the office of the spirit, or mind, to govern the body, but not that of the body to govern the mind: therefore, when the body is under "infirmary," "the spirit sustains it: but if the spirit be afflicted, there is nothing which can bear it up (Proverbs 15:13). 'The spirit of a true MAN' (so the Hebrew, ish, means; a manly, spirit) stands in contrast to "a broken spirit." We ought not so to yield to calamity as to suffer the "spirit" to be "broken," but we ought to make "the name of the Lord" our "tower of strength" (Proverbs 18:10).


Verse 15

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

The heart (the understanding combined with the will) of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge. The docile ear follows the docile heart. The ear is the sense which betokens discipline, obeying the desire of the heart or understanding, by giving heed (Isaiah 50:4, end).


Verse 16

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

A man's gift maketh room for him - maketh a clear and wide way for him into the presence of those to whom he desires access. "A man's" (Hebrew, adam) - the gift of a man, however humble and low. This is the way of the world, not what ought to be.


Verse 17

He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him.

(He that is) first in his own cause (seemeth) just. The judge is pre-engaged by the gifts or else the earnestness of the first speaker.

But his neighbour (the other party in the suit) cometh and searcheth him - i:e., searcheth his words and statement of the case. The judge ought not precipitately to give sentence until he has heard the other side in a case. All rashness in decision without hearing both sides of a question is to be avoided. So before the bar of one's own estimation, a man that is first in his own cause seemeth just, until his neighbour cometh and searcheth him. Contrast 1 Corinthians 4:3-5.


Verse 18

The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty.

The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty. Many quarrel in lawsuits, not so much from the love of having, as from unwillingness of either to yield to the other. The lot was resorted to on solemn occasions, to leave the decision with God, the supreme Arbiter (note, Proverbs 16:33). "The mighty" are those who are pertinacious as they are powerful, and who can therefore do the greatest injury to one another, unless they come to a mutual agreement.


Verse 19

A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.

A brother offended, [ nipshaa` (H6586) - offended by the defection or transgression of his brother; or else, having been deserted by his brother] (is harder to be won than) a strong city. Maurer avoids the ellipsis by translating, 'A brother is more vehemently refractory (resists more violently) than a strong city.' But the niphal or passive conjugation more favours the English version. Tacitus, 'Hist.' 4: 15, 'The hatreds of those nearest of kin are generally the fiercest.' And (their) contentions (are) like the bars of a castle - harder to be broken than those of humble buildings. Brothers' quarrels preclude an avenue to reconciliation. The closer the tie, the greater the alienation when the tie has been snapt asunder. The greatest love, when wounded, turns to the greatest hatred. A wrong from a brother seems the more bitter as one thinks the highest benefits due from a brother, and expects them. It adds to the rancour that the mutual faults of one another are better known by brothers. Plutarch counts among 'impossibilities' a true and solid reconciliation of offended brothers. But cf. Luke 18:27.


Verse 20

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

A man's belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth. Each one gets the fruit, whether good or bad, of his words, according as these are good or bad. Other fruits it is optional with us to eat or not; this fruit we must unavoidably eat (Proverbs 13:2).


Verse 21

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

Death and life (are) in the power of the tongue. "Death and life," both of body and soul; both of the speakers and the hearers.

And they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof. They who delight in constantly using it, whether for good or evil, shall experience corresponding results (James 1:19; James 1:25; James 3:6; James 3:8).


Verse 22

Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.

(Whoso) findeth a wife (i:e., one truly realizing what a wife ought, to be) findeth a good (thing). It was a "good" thing even in Paradise (Genesis 2:18), when man was in innocence: much more it is so now that man is prone to lust, and needs a meet helper. Rome therefore acts against Revelation and nature in imposing compulsory celibacy on many. "Findeth" implies the rarity of the thing obtained (Ecclesiastes 7:27-28), and the need of circumspection in the search. Blind passion is not to make the selection at random. Wise parents should be consulted: neglect of doing so brought evil on Samson (Judges 14:2-3). Above all, God is to be asked in prayer, (Genesis 24:12-42, etc.)

And obtaineth favour of the Lord - not by his own exertion or sagacity, but by the favour of the Lord (Proverbs 19:14).


Verse 23

The poor useth intreaties; but the rich answereth roughly.

The poor useth entreaties; but the rich answereth roughly. Poverty generates a feeling of helplessness and humility: wealth generates self-sufficiency; so that the rich, thinking they need not the aid of the poor, give a rough answer to their entreaties.


Verse 24

A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

A man (that hath) friends (associates) must show himself friendly (social): and there is a friend, (a loving friend) (that) sticketh closer than a brother. Friendships must be cherished by mutual conversation and kindnesses, without which their beginnings are soon dissolved. 'If you wish to be loved, love' (Seneca). He who is friendly will have friends. There is no feeling which more exacts reciprocity than love. The second clause enforces the first clause, that we ought to show ourselves friendly; for so we may secure "a friend (Hebrew, 'oheeb (Hebrew #157), a lover) that sticketh closer than a brother" in our times of "adversity" (Proverbs 17:17.) "Friends," in the first clause, is in Hebrew, ree`iym (Hebrew #7453), associates, companions; not so strong as 'oheeb, 'a loving friend.' Christ alone realizes this super-excellent friendship (Matthew 12:50).

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 18:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/proverbs-18.html. 1871-8.

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