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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Proverbs 26

 

 

Verses 1-28

Proverbs 26:1. As snow in summer, which beats down the fruits; and as rain in harvest, which causes the corn to shoot in the ear; so is honour incongruous to a fool. He shames his laurels, he wastes his money, and dishonours his station.

Proverbs 26:2. As the bird by wandering: ut passer ad vagandum, et ut hirundo ad gyrandum, &c.: as the sparrow by vagrating, and as the swallow by flying round to a warmer climate, and returning to build her nest in the same house; so a causeless curse shall never come. What then shall be done to unburden the conscience of a guilty world? The wrongs and insults offered to women; the tricks, frauds, and robberies in trade; the innumerable estates, entirely wrested from ruined families by means of mortgages, not to mention war and bloodshed; do not the ghosts of injured innocence, of parents whose orphans are defrauded; does not the blood of martyrs raise a loud cry in the ears of heaven, “How long, oh Lord, holy and true, dost thou not avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth.” Revelation 6:10. What shall the guilty do? Let them make restitution to the utmost of their power; let them ask forgiveness of the injured, and pray with tears to God that their sins may be forgiven: let them seek the opposite virtue of every vice.

Proverbs 26:4. Answer not a fool according to his folly. By the fool, so largely characterized in this place, and so often branded in the Proverbs, we do not understand a man of weak intellect, and inoffensive life. The gradation of intellectual powers from dulness to the clearest perception is a high display of the Creator’s wisdom. It prepares one to rule, and another to obey. It qualifies one to take the helm of state, a second to lead in commerce, and a third to be a father in the profession of science; while all the less successful, and less enlightened, take their place in the humbler walks of life. Hence, by the fool we understand a man who degrades himself to that reproach by imprudence, and the folly of his passions and conduct. This sort of folly is very common to youth: they often degrade themselves with it in company, and in the streets. Honour conferred upon them renders their folly the more conspicuous. It is unseasonably bestowed, as snow in summer and rain in harvest. Far more judicious to apply the rod to a fool’s back; for that would make him exercise his reason by avoiding sin. So we do with the horse, and the ass, to which the fool is compared, by a stupid adherence to his own way. But if the man be too aged for the rod, we must sometimes treat his talk and conduct with silent contempt, and especially we must not answer him “according to his folly,” with foolish jesting and buffoonery, “lest we be like unto him.” Yet on other occasions we must answer “according to his folly;” we must condescend to expose his sophistry, and so reply to his folly as to make him ashamed, “lest he be wise in his own conceit.” He who sends the fool on business, brings reproach on his affairs; for he will delay as though he had no feet. It is like slinging a stone at random which may do mischief; or like carrying a stone to Mercury’s heap, to distinguish leagues or miles. He will tell all his heart like a drunkard in wine. Reproof and advice are bestowed without effect. He returns to his folly as the dog to his vomit. Then it is the last of folly for men who have for awhile refrained from sin, to return to their former habits and ways.

Proverbs 26:12. Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit. This man, instead of learning wisdom from others, deifies his own knowledge, and despises instruction. A mind disposed to wisdom, perceives its past ignorance and errors, and profits by books and wiser men; but the opinionated hides himself in the cloud of error. If we dispute against the truth we shall stumble; but if we pray the Lord to teach us, he will lead us in the way we ought to go.

Proverbs 26:22. The words of a talebearer are as wounds. This character, so often branded in this book, here receives a just rebuke. When strife happens between factions and families, when no mediation is accepted because of the haughtiness of the heart, it dies of itself in a short time; for the ear of the public is tired with a repetition of evils. But when the tale-bearer hears one talk partly in anger, or perhaps in jest, not doubting but common prudence will preserve him from repeating the evil, and when he goes pregnant with mischief to court the favour of the absent, he kindles up strife anew, and burns himself with the coals. He heard the evil as a friend, he heard it without remonstrance, and meanly revealed it as a foe. Therefore they will despise him as a traitor; and the party he served for the moment will so know him as not to trust him with secrets. How then will God despise those who trim between religion and the world. Because they are lukewarm, he will spue them out of his mouth.

Proverbs 26:23. Burning lips. דלק dalak, occurs in Obadiah, Proverbs 26:18. “The house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame.” Ezekiel 24:10. “Heap on wood, kindle a fire, consume the flesh.” The sense then of this knotty proverb will be, that the burning lips of a tale-bearer, moved by a wicked heart, will set the house on fire; and that his fair speeches of pretended friendship will be like the fragments of a broken china vase, though painted with gold and silver, nothing worth.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 26:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/proverbs-26.html. 1835.

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