corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Proverbs 18

 

 

Verse 1

Proverbs 18:1 Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh [and] intermeddleth with all wisdom.

Ver. 1. Through desire a man having separated himself, &c.] Here the reading that is in margin, methinks, is the better: "He that separates himself" - either from his friend, as the old interpreter makes the sense, or from anything else that he hath formerly followed - "seeketh according to his desire" - seeketh to satisfy his own heart’s lust, and to compass what he coveteth - "and intermeddleth with every business" - stirs very busily in everything that is done, and leaves no stone unrolled, no course unattempted, whereby he may effect his design, and come off with his credit. The practice hereof we may observe in the Pharisees, those old Separatists, who slandered all that our Saviour did; and in their pertinacious malice, never left till they had slain him for a deceiver of the people. So the Donatists separated, and affirmed that there were no true churches but theirs. They were also divided among themselves, in minutula frustula, into small sucking congregations, as Augustine saith, whose arguments not being able to confute, they reproached him for his former life, when he was a Manichee. In like sort dealt the Anabaptists with Luther, whom they held more pestiferous than the pope. Muncer wrote a book against him, dedicating it to the illustrious Prince Christ, and rails at him, as one that wanted the spirit of revelation, and savoured only the things of the flesh. (a) Our Separatists, the better sort of them, have said, that the differences are so small between themselves and us, that they can for a need come to our churches, partake in the sacraments, and hold communion with us as the churches of Christ. (b) But if so, how then dare they separate, and intermeddle with every business, that they may have some spacious pretence for it? Turks wonder at English for cutting or picking their clothes, counting them little better than mad to make holes in whole cloth, which time of itself would tear too soon. Men may do pro libitu - as some render "through desire" in this text - as they will with their own; but woe he to those that cut and rend the seamless coat of Christ with causeless separations.


Verse 2

Proverbs 18:2 A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.

Ver. 2. A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.] Or, In discovering his own heart - i.e., in following his own humour, against all that can be said to the contrary. He is wilful, and so stands as a stake in the midst of a stream; lets all pass by him, but he stands where he was. It is easier to deal with twenty men’s reasons, than with one man’s will. He hath made his conclusion, you may as soon remove a rock as him. Quicquid vult valde vult, quicquid vult sanctum est. His will is his rule, and when a man hath said and done his utmost to convince him by force of reason, he shall find him like a mill horse, just there in the evening where he began his morning circuit. Some think that Solomon here taxeth, not so much the wilfulness, as the vain gloriousness and ostentation of fond fools, who seem to delight in wisdom; but it is only for a name, and that they may, by setting their good parts a-sunning, gain the applause and admiration of the world, for men singularly qualified. But why should any affect the vain praises of men, and not rest content with the euge of a good conscience? The blessed Virgin was troubled, when truly praised of an angel. Moses had more glory by his veil than by his face. Christ, beside the veil of his humanity, says, "See you tell no man," &c.


Verse 3

Proverbs 18:3 When the wicked cometh, [then] cometh also contempt, and with ignominy reproach.

Ver. 3. When the wicked cometh, then cometh contempt.] It comes into the world with him, so the Hebrew doctors expound it. He is born a contemner of God, of his people, and of his ordinances, being "vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind," [Colossians 2:18] and having a base esteem of others, in comparison of himself. Thus "vain man would be wise," yea, the only wise, "though man be born like a wild ass’s colt," [Job 11:12] and so he could not but confess, would he but consult a while with himself. But he doth with himself as some people do by dogs and monkeys, which they know to be paltry carrion beasts, and yet they set great store by them, and make precious account of them, merely for their mind’s sake.

And with ignominy, reproach.] These two he shall be sure of, according to that of 1 Samuel 2:30 : - "They that despise me shall be lightly esteemed"; and Proverbs 3:34, "Surely God scorneth the scorners"; {See Trapp on "Proverbs 3:34"} he pays them in their own coin, overshoots them in their own bow, makes them to meet with such as will mete them out their own measure, and for their contempt repay them with ignominy, "reproach."


Verse 4

Proverbs 18:4 The words of a man’s mouth [are as] deep waters, [and] the wellspring of wisdom [as] a flowing brook.

Ver. 4. The words of a man’s mouth are as deep waters.] Fitly are the words of the wise resembled to waters, saith one, inasmuch as they both wash the minds of the hearers, that the foulness of sin remain not therein, and water them in such sort that they faint not, nor wither by a drought and burning desire of heavenly doctrine. Now these words of the wise are of two sorts - some are as deep waters, and cannot easily be fathomed, as Samson’s riddles and Solomon’s apothegms, so very much admired by the Queen of Sheba, 2 Chronicles 9:1-9; some again are plain, and flow so easily, as a flowing brook, that the simplest may understand them. The same may be affirmed of the holy Scriptures -- those "words of the wise and their dark sayings." [Proverbs 1:6] The Scriptures, saith one, are both text and gloss; one place opens another; one place hath that plainly, that another delivers darkly. The Rabbis have one saying, That there is a mountain of sense hangs upon every apex of the word of God; and another they have, Nulla est obiectio in lege quae non habet solutionem in latere - i.e., There is not any doubt in the law but may be resolved by some other text. Parallel scriptures cast a mutual light one upon another; and is there not a thin veil laid over the word, which is more rarefied by reading, and at last wholly worn away? A friend, says Chrysostom, that is acquainted with his friend, will get out the meaning of a letter or phrase which another could not that is a stranger; so it is in the Scripture.


Verse 5

Proverbs 18:5 [It is] not good to accept the person of the wicked, to overthrow the righteous in judgment.

Ver. 5. It is not good to accept the person of the wicked.] Indeed, it is so bad as can hardly be expressed, and is therefore here set forth by the figure liptote; which is, say grammarians, cum minus dicitur, plus intelligitur, when little is said, but more is understood. (a) This accepting of persons, declared here to be so very naught, is either in passing sentence of judgment, of which see Leviticus 19:15; {See Trapp on "Leviticus 19:15"} or otherwise in common conversation, of which read James 2:1-4. {See Trapp on "James 2:1"} {See Trapp on "James 2:2"} {See Trapp on "James 2:3"} {See Trapp on "James 2:4"}

To overthrow the righteous in judgment.] Which is the easilier done, because they cannot quarrel and contend as the wicked can. "The fool’s lips enter into contentions"; [Proverbs 18:6] they have an art in it; they are dexterous at it; it is their trade and study to brabble and wrangle, to set a good face upon an ill matter, to rail and out brave, to set men further at odds, and to embitter their spirits one against another. This is a trick they have learned of their father the devil; and this their graceless speeches do as directly tend unto, as if they had legs to go into contention.


Verse 6

Proverbs 18:6 A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes.

Ver. 6. A fool’s lips enter into contention.] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 18:5"}

And his mouth calleth for strokes] (a) By his desire upon others; but by desert and effect upon himself.


Verse 7

Proverbs 18:7 A fool’s mouth [is] his destruction, and his lips [are] the snare of his soul.

Ver. 7. A fool’s mouth is his destruction.] Proverbs 10:14; Proverbs 12:13; Proverbs 13:3 {See Trapp on "Proverbs 10:14"} {See Trapp on "Proverbs 12:13"} {See Trapp on "Proverbs 13:3"}


Verse 8

Proverbs 18:8 The words of a talebearer [are] as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.

Ver. 8. The words of a talebearer are as wounds.] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 12:18"} He that takes away a man’s good name kills him alive, and ruins him and his posterity; being herein worse than Cain, for he, in killing his brother, made him live for ever, and eternalised his name. Some read, "Are as the words of the wounded": they seem to speak out of wounded, troubled hearts, and then their words go down into the belly - they go glib down, pass without the least questioning.


Verse 9

Proverbs 18:9 He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.

Ver. 9. He also that is slothful in his work.] As he must needs be that goes peddling about with tales, and buzzing evil reports into the ears of those that will hear them. See 1 Timothy 5:3, with the note there. Lata negligentia dolus est, saith the civilian.

Is brother to him that is a great waster.] Est frater Domini disperditionis, will as certainly come to poverty as the greatest waster of good. A man dies no less surely, though not so suddenly, of a consumption than of an apoplexy.


Verse 10

Proverbs 18:10 The name of the LORD [is] a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.

Ver. 10. The name of the Lord is a strong tower.] God’s attributes are called "His name"; because by them he is known as a man is, by his name. These are said to be Arx roboris, a tower so deep, no pioneer can undermine it; so thick, no cannon can pierce it; so high, no ladder can scale it; - "a rock," an "old rock"; [Isaiah 26:4] yea, "munitions of rocks"; [Isaiah 33:16] rocks within rocks; a tower impregnable - inexpugnable. (a)

The righteous runneth to it.] All creatures run to their refuges when hunted, [Proverbs 30:26 Psalms 104:18 Proverbs 18:11 Daniel 4:10-11 9:50-51] which yet fail them many times, as the tower of Shechem did; [ 9:46-49] as the stronghold of Sion did those Jebusites that scorned David and his host - as conceited, that the very lame and blind, those most shiftless creatures, might there easily hold it out against him. [2 Samuel 5:6-7] The hunted hare runs to her form, but that cannot secure her; the traveller to his bush, but that, when once wet through, does him more hurt than good; as the physicians did the haemorroids. [Mark 5:26] But as she, when she had spent all before, came to Christ and was cured, so the righteous being poor and destitute of wealth - which is the rich man’s strong city [Proverbs 18:11] - and of all human helps (God loveth to relieve such as are forsaken of their hopes), runs to this strong refuge, and is not only safe, but ‘set aloft,’ as the word signifies, out of the gunshot. (b) None can pull them out of his hands. Run therefore to God, by praying and not fainting. [Luke 18:1] This is the best policy for security. That which is said of wily persons that are full of fetches, of windings, and of turnings in the world, that such will never break, is much more true of a righteous, praying Christian. He hath but one grand policy to secure him in all dangers; and that is, to run to God.


Verse 11

Proverbs 18:11 The rich man’s wealth [is] his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit.

Ver. 11. The rich man’s wealth is his strong city.] It is hard to have wealth, and not to trust to it. [Matthew 19:24 1 Timothy 5:17; see the notes there} But wealth was never true to those that trusted it; there is an utter uncertainty, {1 Timothy 5:17] a nonentity, [Proverbs 23:5-6] an impotence to help in the evil day, [Zephaniah 1:18] an impossibility to stretch to eternity, unless it be to destroy the owner for ever. [Ecclesiastes 5:13 James 5:1-2] A wicked man beaten out of earthly comforts is as a naked man in a storm, and an unarmed man in the field, or a ship tossed in the sea without an anchor, which presently dasheth upon rocks, or falleth upon quicksands. Totam igitur anchoram sacram figamus in Deo, qui solus nec potest, nec vult fallere; Cast we anchor therefore upon God, who neither can nor will fail us, saith a learned interpreter.

And as an high wall in his own conceit.] It is "conceit" only that sets a price upon these outward comforts, and bears men in hand, that thereby, as by a high wall, they shall not only be secured, but secreted in their lewdness, from the eyes of God and men. But what said the oracle to bloody Phocas? Though thou set up thy walls as high as heaven, sin lies at the foundation, and all will out - yea, all be overturned. (a)


Verse 12

Proverbs 18:12 Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour [is] humility.

Ver. 12. Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty.] Creature confidence and high mindedness are the Dives’s richman’s diseases, and go therefore yoked together, as here; so in 1 Timothy 6:17 - "Charge the rich that they be not high minded, nor trust to uncertain riches." Magna cognatio ut rei sic nominis divitiis, et vitiis; Wealth and wickedness are of near alliance, and are not far from destruction, or ‘breaking to shivers,’ as the word signifies. So bladder like is the soul, that, filled with earthly vanities, though but wind, it grows great and swells in pride; but pricked with the least pin of divine justice, it shrinks and shrivels to nothing. [Proverbs 16:18; Proverbs 15:33; Proverbs 12:2] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 16:18"} {See Trapp on "Proverbs 15:33"} {See Trapp on "Proverbs 12:2"}


Verse 13

Proverbs 18:13 He that answereth a matter before he heareth [it], it [is] folly and shame unto him.

Ver. 13. He that answereth a matter before he heareth it.] Solomon had said before, that "even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise," [Proverbs 17:28] and in many passages of this blessed book he sets forth that a great part of man’s wisdom is shown in his words. To be too forward to answer, before the question be fully propounded or expounded is rash, if not proud boldness, and reflects shame upon them that do it. Likewise to be "slow to hear, swift to speak," - hath not God given us two ears, and one tongue, to teach us better? - to precipitate a censure, or pass sentence before both parties be heard, to speak evil of the things that a man knows not, or weakly and insufficiently to defend that which is good against a subtle adversary; Augustine professeth this was it that hardened him; and made him to triumph in his former manicheeism, that he met with feeble opponents, and such as his nimble wit was easily able to overturn. Oecolampadius said of Carolostadius, that he had a good cause, but wanted shoulders to support it.


Verse 14

Proverbs 18:14 The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?

Ver. 14. The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity.] Some sorry shift a man may make to bustle with, and to rub through other ailments and aggrievances, disasters or diseases, sores or sicknesses of the body - as the word here properly importeth. Let a man be sound within, and, upon good terms, at peace with his own conscience, and he will bravely bear unspeakable pressures. [2 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Corinthians 1:12] Paul was merry under his load, because his heart was cheery in the Lord; as an old beaten porter to the cross, maluit tolerare quam deplorare, his "stroke was heavier than his groaning," as Job. [Job 23:2] Alexander Aphrodiseus (a) gives a reason why porters under their burdens go singing; because the mind, being delighted with the sweetness of the music, the body feels the weight so much the less. Their shoulders, while sound, will bear great luggage; but let a bone be broken, or but the skin rubbed up and raw, the lightest load will be grievous. A little water in a leaden vessel is heavy; so is a little trouble in an evil conscience.

But a wounded spirit who can bear?] q.d., It is a burden importable, able to quail the courage, and crush the shoulders of the hugest Hercules, of the mightiest man upon earth; who can bear it? The body cannot; much less a diseased body. And if the soul be at unrest, the body cannot but co-suffer. Hence Job preferred, and Judas chose strangling before it. Bilney and Bainham, after they had abjured, felt such a hell in their consciences, till they had openly professed their sorrow for that sin, as they would not feel again for all the world’s good. (b) Daniel chose rather to be cast into the den of lions, than to carry about a lion in his bosom, an enraged conscience. The primitive Christians cried likewise, Ad Leones potius quam ad Lenones adiaciamur. To the lions is more preferable than let us be thrown near the lions. What a terror to himself was our Richard III, after the cruel murder of his two innocent nephews; and Charles IX of France, after that bloody massacre? He could never endure to be awakened in the night without music, or some like diversion. But, alas! if the soul itself be out of tune, these outward things do no more good than a fair shoe to a gouty foot, or a silken stocking to a broken leg.


Verse 15

Proverbs 18:15 The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge.

Ver. 15. The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge.] Such as can keep the bird singing in their bosom, and are free from inward perturbations, these by meditating on the good word of God, and by listening to the wholesome words of others, get and gather knowledge; that is, great store of all sorts of knowledge, that which is divine especially, and tends to the perfecting of the soul.


Verse 16

Proverbs 18:16 A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.

Ver. 16. A man’s gift maketh room for him.] This Jacob [Genesis 43:11] knew well, and therefore bade his sons take a present for the governor of the land, though it were but of every good thing a little. So Saul, [1 Samuel 9:7] when to go to the man of God to inquire about the asses; "But behold, said he to his servant, if we go, what shall we bring the man? what have we?" {See Trapp on "Proverbs 17:8"} {See Trapp on "Proverbs 17:23"}


Verse 17

Proverbs 18:17 [He that is] first in his own cause [seemeth] just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him.

Ver. 17. He that is first in his own cause seemeth just.] The first tale is good till the second be heard. How fair a tale told Tertullus for the Jews against Paul, till the apostle came after him, and unstarched the orator’s trim speech? Judges had need to get and keep that ους αδιαβληκτον that Alexander boasted of, to keep one ear clear and unprejudiced, for the defendant; for they shall meet with such active actors or pleaders, as can make Quid libet ex quo libet, candida de nigris et de candentibus atra, as can draw a fair glove upon a foul hand, blanch and smooth over the worst causes with goodly pretences, as Ziba did against Mephibosheth, Potiphar’s wife against Joseph, &c. He must therefore αμφοιν ακροασθαι, as the Athenian judges were sworn to do, "hear both sides indifferently": and as that Levite said, [ 19:28-30] Consider, consult, and then give sentence, doing nothing by partiality or prejudice.


Verse 18

Proverbs 18:18 The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty.

Ver. 18. The lot causeth contentions to cease.] As it did in Joshua 14:2, where it is remarkable, that Joshua, that lotted out the land, left none to himself; and that portion that was given him, and he content with it, was but a mean one in the barren mountains. So again in Acts 1:26, where it is remarkable, that this Joseph, called Barsabas, seeing it was not God’s mind by lot to make choice of him now to succeed Judas in the apostleship, was content with a lower condition; therefore, afterwards God called him to that high and honourable office of an apostle, if at least this Joseph Barsabas, were the same with that Joseph Barnabas in Acts 4:36, as the Centurists are of opinion. {See Trapp on "Proverbs 16:23"}


Verse 19

Proverbs 18:19 A brother offended [is harder to be won] than a strong city: and [their] contentions [are] like the bars of a castle.

Ver. 19. A brother offended is harder to be won, &c.] Whether it be a brother by race, place, or grace; Corruptio optimi pessima: those oft that loved most dearly, if once the devil cast his club between them, they hate most deadly. See this exemplified in Cain and Abel, Esau and Jacob, Polynices and Eteocles, Romulus and Remus, Caracalla and Geta, the two sons of Severus the Emperor, Robert and Rufus, the sons of William the Conqueror, the civil dissensions between the houses of York and Lancaster, wherein were slain eighty princes of the blood royal, (a) the dissensions between England and Scotland, which consumed more Christian blood, wrought more spoil and destruction, and continued longer than ever quarrel we read of did between any two people of the world. As for brethren by profession, and that of the true religion too, among Protestants, you shall meet with many divisions, and those prosecuted with a great deal of bitterness. Nullum bellum citius exardescit, nullum deflagrat tardius quam Theologicum. (b) No war breaks out sooner, or lasts longer, than that among divines, or as that about the sacrament; a sacrament of love, a communion, and yet the occasion, by accident, of much dissension. This made holy Strigelius weary of his life. Cupio ex hac vita migrare ob duas causas, saith he. For two causes chiefly do I desire to depart out of this world; First, That I may enjoy the sweet sight of the Son of God, and the Church above; Next, Ut liberer ab immanibus et implicabilibus odiis Theologorum, that I may be delivered from the cruel and implacable hatreds of dissenting divines. (c) There is a most sad story of those that fled to Frankfort hence in Queen Mary’s time; yet among them there were such grievous breaches, that they sought the lives one of another; great care therefore must be taken that brethren break not friendship: or if they do, that they reunite in peace again as soon as is possible.


Verse 20

Proverbs 18:20 A man’s belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; [and] with the increase of his lips shall he be filled.

Ver. 20. A man’s belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth.] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 12:14"} {See Trapp on "Proverbs 13:2"}

And with the increase of his lips shall he be satisfied.] It is worthy the observing, saith an interpreter here, that Solomon doth vary his words: he speaketh sometimes of the "mouth," sometimes of the "lips," sometimes of the "tongue," as Proverbs 18:21, to show that all the instruments or means of speech shall have, as it were, their proper and just reward.


Verse 21

Proverbs 18:21 Death and life [are] in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.

Ver. 21. Death and life are in the power of the tongue.] That best and worst member of the body, as Bias told Amasis, king of Egypt; (a) an "unruly evil set on fire of hell," saith St James of an ill tongue - as contrarily a good one is fired with zeal by the Holy Ghost. [Acts 2:2-4] Fire, we know, is a good servant, but an ill lord; if it get above us once, there is no dealing with it. Hence it is, that as the careful householder lays a strict charge upon his children and servants to look well to their fire, so doth Solomon give often warning to have a care of the tongue. "For by thy words shalt thou be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condenmed," saith a greater than Solomon. [Matthew 12:37] The Arabians have a proverb, ‘Take heed that thy tongue cut not thy throat.’ (b) A word and a pest grow upon the same root in the Hebrew; to shew, saith one, that an evil tongue hath the pestilence in it. It spits up and down the room, as the serpent Dipsas, or as a candle, whose tallow is mixed with brine.


Verse 22

Proverbs 18:22 [Whoso] findeth a wife findeth a good [thing], and obtaineth favour of the LORD.

Ver. 22. Whoso findeth a wife, &c.] Whoso, after much seeking, by prayer to God, and his own utmost industry - as [Genesis 24:1-9] Isaac went forth to pray, and his servant went forth to seek - findeth a fit and faithful yoke fellow - called here "a wife," that is, "a good wife," as Ecclesiastes 7:1. A name is put for a good name, and as Isaiah 1:18, wool is put for white wool: every married woman is not a wife; a bad woman is but the shadow of a wife; (a) according to Lamech’s second wife’s name, Zillah. "He findeth a good thing," a singular blessing, and such as should draw from him abundance of thanks. He may well say, as they were wont to do at Athens when they were married, εφυτον κακον, ευρον αμεινον. I have left a worse condition, and found a better. (b) If any be the worse for a wife, for a good wife especially, it is from his own corrupt heart, that, like a toad, turns all it takes into rank poison.


Verse 23

Proverbs 18:23 The poor useth intreaties; but the rich answereth roughly.

Ver. 23. The poor useth entreaties.] Speaks supplications; comes in a submissive manner; uses a low language, as a broken man. How much more should we do so to God? Quanta cum reverentia, quanto timore, quanta ad Deum humilitate aecedere debet e palude sua procedens et repens vilis ranuncula, (a) creeping into his presence with utmost humility and reverence.


Verse 24

Proverbs 18:24 A man [that hath] friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend [that] sticketh closer than a brother.

Ver. 24. A man that hath friends, &c.] For Cos amoris amor, Love is the whetstone, or loadstone rather, of love. Marce, ut ameris, ama. (a) Love is a coin that must be returned in kind.

And there is a friend, &c.] Such a friend is as one’s own soul, [Deuteronomy 13:6] a piece so just cut for him, as answers him rightly in every joint. This is a rare happiness.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 18:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/proverbs-18.html. 1865-1868.

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology