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Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible

Proverbs 16

 

 

Verse 1

PROVERBS CHAPTER 16

Men can neither think nor speak wisely and well of themselves, or without Divine assistance. Or, as many others, both ancient and modern interpreters, render the verse,

The preparations, or dispositions, or orderings of the heart are in or from a man; (i.e. a man may consider and contrive in his own thoughts what he wills or designs to speak; which is spoken by way of concession, yet not excluding man’s dependence upon God therein, which is evident both from many plain texts of Scripture, and from undeniable reason;) but the

answer or speech (as this word is oft used)

of the tongue is from the Lord. Men cannot express their own thoughts without God’s leave and help, and their tongues are oft overruled by God to speak what was besides and above their own thoughts, as he did Balaam, Num 23, and Caiaphas, John 11:49-51.


Verse 2

All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; many men can easily flatter and deceive themselves into a good opinion of themselves, and of their own actions, though they be sinful. See below, Proverbs 16:25, and compare 1 Corinthians 4:4.

The Lord weigheth, i.e. exactly knoweth, as men do the things which they weigh and examine, the spirits; the hearts of men, from which both men’s actions, and the goodness and badness of them, in a great measure, proceed; their ends and intentions, their dispositions and affections, which are hid not only from others, but ofttimes from a man’s self; whereby he is unfit to judge in his own cause, and easily mistaken, if he do not use great diligence and fidelity. In this last clause he intimates the reason why men deceive themselves in judging of their state and actions, because they do not search their own hearts.


Verse 3

Commit thy works unto the Lord, Heb. Roll, &c., as a man rolls a burden to another, which is too heavy for himself, imploring his help. Refer all thy actions and concerns to God, and to his glory, as the end of them, and in the discharge of thy own duty depend upon God’s providence for assistance and success.

Thy thoughts shall be established; thy honest desires and designs shall be brought to a happy issue one way or other.


Verse 4

Hath made; or, hath wrought or doth work; for the Hebrews express the present as well as the past thee by this tense: he ordereth or disposeth; for this may be understood either of the works of creation or of providence.

All things, and especially all men, for himself; for his own service and glory; for the discovery and illustration of his own wisdom, power, goodness, truth, justice, and his other most glorious perfections.

The wicked, wilful and impenitent sinners,

for the day of evil; for the thee of punishment, as this phrase is used, Psalms 49:5 Jeremiah 17:18, and elsewhere; of which the Scripture frequently speaks, both to warn sinners of their danger, and to satisfy the minds of them which are amazed and disquieted with the consideration of the present impunity and felicity of wicked men. Men make themselves wicked, and God therefore makes them miserable.


Verse 5

That is proud in heart, though he dissemble it in his outward carriage and countenance, as Psalms 10:4. In whose heart pride rules.

Though hand join in hand; though they have many friends and assistants. See the same phrase Proverbs 11:21.


Verse 6

By mercy and truth; either,

1. By God’s mercy or grace, and by his truth in performing his promises made to sinners in Christ. Or,

2. By men’s mercy and truth, as those very words are jointly used, Proverbs 3:3 20:28, and elsewhere; and as, in the following clause, the fear of the Lord is a grace or disposition in men; by a merciful, and just, and faithful frame of heart and course of life; which are here opposed to sacrifices, as mercy is, Hosea 6:6, by which the hypocritical Jews expected to obtain the expiation of their sins.

Iniquity is purged, not meritoriously, but instrumentally, as they qualify a man to offer up acceptable prayers to God for the pardon of his sins, and to receive and apply to himself that pardon which Christ by his blood hath purchased for all sincere believers, who are filled with mercy, and truth, and other graces.

By the fear of the Lord; by a filial reverence or respect unto God, and by a holy fear of offending God, and by a dread of God’s judgments;

men depart from evil; they are kept from abusing pardoning mercy, and from returning to folly or wickedness. So he showeth that justification and sanctification are constant and inseparable companions.


Verse 7

By disposing their hearts to kindness towards him.


Verse 8

This was in effect said before, Proverbs 15:16, and is here repeated, partly because of the great importance and usefulness of this truth, and partly because men are very hardly brought to a serious belief of it.


Verse 9

Deviseth his way; considers and proposeth to himself what he will do.

Directeth his steps; overruleth and disposeth all their designs and actions as he pleaseth, and not as they list.


Verse 10

A divine sentence, Heb. divination, which is sometimes taken in a good sense for prudence, as it is Isaiah 3:2. A great sagacity and piercing judgment to discern dubious and difficult cases.

Is; or, should be; for the verb is wanting in the Hebrew, and this may be supplied as well as is. And he seems not so much to speak of the matter of fact, as if it were thus in all kings, which is notoriously and confessedly untrue, as of the duty of kings, in whom wisdom is a necessary qualification. For thus the two following proverbs concerning kings, Proverbs 16:12,13, must be understood, otherwise they are repugnant to common experience.

Of the king; either,

1. Of wise kings, who only are worthy of that name and office; king being here put for a wise king, as a name is put for a good name, and a woman for a good woman, Ecclesiastes 7:28; and then this is true in fact, as it was in David. 2 Samuel 14:17, and in Solomon, 1 Kings 3:28. Or,

2. Of kings in general, in the sense before given; for seeing the word is generally expressed without any limitation, both here and Proverbs 16:12,13, it may seem presumption to confine it to those few kings which are or were wise and good.

Transgresseth not; or, shall or should not transgress, or go beyond the bounds of religion and justice.


Verse 11

Are the Lord’s; are God’s work, as it follows; made by his direction and appointment, so as no man can corrupt or alter them without violating God’s rights and authority, and incurring his displeasure.

The weights, Heb. the stones, which they then used as weights. See Poole "Proverbs 11:1".


Verse 12

It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness; they should not only abstain from all wicked practices, but abhor them both in their own persons, and in all their servants and subjects. It is too plain that he speaks not of the common practice, but of the duty of kings, as on Proverbs 16:10. And such affirmative expressions are oft used in Scripture to express men’s duty only, as 1 Corinthians 6:19, your body is (i.e. should be) the temple, &c.; and 1 Corinthians 7:32, careth, &c. i.e. ought to care.

The throne is established by righteousness; and (which is implied) weakened, and sometimes overthrown by unrighteousness; and therefore this is necessary for their own security and happiness.


Verse 13

All wise and good kings do, and all kings should, delight in employing such counsellors, judges, and officers under them, as are just and faithful in their counsels, and sentences, and actions, because such bring great honour and advantage to them.


Verse 14

Is as messengers of death; is as terrible as if many messengers were sent to denounce the sentence of death, and to execute it.

Will pacify it; will use all prudent and lawful means to pacify it.


Verse 15

In the light of the king’s countenance is life; his favour and smiling countenance is most sweet and refreshing, especially to him that was under a sentence of death, Proverbs 16:14.

His favour is as a cloud of the latter rain; as acceptable as those clouds which bring the latter rain, whereby the fruits are filled and ripened a little before the harvest; of which see Deuteronomy 11:14 Job 29:23 James 5:7.


Verse 16

How much better! it is inexpressibly and unconceivably better, as this phrase implies, Psalms 31:19 36:7 92:5, &c.

Is it to get wisdom than gold, because it brings a man more certain, and complete, and lasting comfort and advantage.


Verse 17

The highway of the upright, their common road, in which they constantly purpose, and desire, and customarily use to walk, although sometimes through frailty or temptation they slip into the by-paths of sin, is to depart from evil; from the evil of sin, and consequently from the evil of punishment.

He that keepeth his way, that takes heed to walk in that highway, preserveth his soul from that mischief which befalls those that walk in the crooked paths of wickedness.


Verse 18

Pride goeth before destruction; it is commonly a forerunner and cause of men’s ruin, because it highly provokes both God and men.


Verse 19

Who will spoil and rob others to maintain their own pomp and luxury.


Verse 20

He that handleth a matter wisely; he who orders his affairs with discretion. Or, as others, both ancient and later interpreters, take it, he that understandeth or attendeth to the word, to wit, the word of God, which is called absolutely the word, Proverbs 13:13, and elsewhere, making that the rule of his actions.

Shall find good; shall obtain happy success.

Who so trusteth in the Lord; who doth not trust to his prudence or diligence, but to God’s providence and blessings. Or, who mixeth God’s word with faith, as the phrase is, Hebrews 4:2.

Happy is he; he shall not only find some good, but shall certainly attain to true happiness.


Verse 21

The wise in heart shall be called prudent: the sense is either,

1. He who hath wisdom or sound knowledge in his heart, will show it by his prudence in ordering his actions. Or rather,

2. He who is truly wise, or prudent, or intelligent (all which words most commonly signify one and the same thing, both in this and in other books of Scripture) shall be so called or accounted by others.

The sweetness of the lips; eloquence added to wisdom; the faculty of expressing a man’s mind fitly, and freely, and acceptably.

Increaseth learning; both in himself, for whilst a man teacheth others he improveth himself; and especially in others, who by this means are induced to hear and receive his good instructions. Wisdom gets a man repute with others, but this faculty of right speaking makes a wise man more instrumental to do good to others.


Verse 22

Is a well-spring of life, is continually suggesting wholesome and saving instructions,

unto him that hath it; and to others also, as is understood from the following clause. The instruction of fools is folly; their most grave and serious counsels are foolish.


Verse 23

Teacheth his mouth; directeth him what, and when, and how to speak, and keepeth him from speaking rashly and foolishly.

Addeth learning to his lips, i.e. enableth him to speak learnedly and wisely. Or, increaseth learning (in himself and others) by (as this Hebrew particle oft signifies, and is by some rendered here) his lips, i.e. by his wise speeches; that this may agree with the latter clause of Proverbs 16:21, where this same phrase is used.


Verse 24

Pleasant words; the discourses of the wise last mentioned, Proverbs 16:23, which yield both profit and delight; their wholesome counsels and refreshing comforts.

To the bones; to the body, synecdochically expressed by the bones, the strongest and greatest parts of it, and the supporters of the rest.


Verse 25

This whole verse was delivered before, Proverbs 14:12, and is here repeated, partly for its great importance and usefulness to prevent that self-deceit which is so common and dangerous; and partly to keep men from leaning too much to their own understanding, and to oblige them to seek and receive the good counsels of wise and holy men.


Verse 26

For himself; for his own use and benefit. The scope of the proverb is to commend and press diligence in a man’s calling, and to condemn idleness.

Craveth it of him, Heb. boweth to him, as a suppliant; beggeth him to labour, that it may have something to put into it for its own comfort, and for the nourishment of the whole body.


Verse 27

Diggeth up evil; inventeth or designeth mischief to others, and prosecuteth his evil designs with great and constant industry.

In his lips there is as a burning fire; as his thoughts, so also his words are very vexatious and pernicious; his tongue is set on fire of hell, and sets himself and others on fire by lies and slanders, and other provoking speeches.


Verse 28

A froward man; or, perverse man, who perverteth his words and ways; who pleaseth not God, and is contrary to men, as was said of the Jews, 1 Thessalonians 2:15.

Soweth strife, by whispering such things as may provoke one against another.

A whisperer, who secretly carries tales from one to another, publishing those evil words and actions which they should conceal, and detracting from their good actions, and perverting such as are innocent with their false constructions.

Chief friends, Heb. a chief friend; the singular number put for the plural, as is frequent in the Hebrew text.


Verse 29

A violent man, Heb. a man of violence, i.e. devoted to violent and injurious courses,

enticeth his neighbour into a confederacy with him in his wicked practices, as it follows.

That is not good, i.e. that is very sinful, as this phrase is used, Proverbs 17:26 18:5, and oft elsewhere.


Verse 30

Shutteth his eyes, that his thoughts may be more free and intent to contrive mischief.

Moving his lips; which is the gesture, either,

1. Of one whose thoughts are deeply engaged. Or,

2. Of one that speaketh or maketh signs to others to assist him in executing that wickedness which he hath contrived.


Verse 31

A crown of glory; a great honour and ornament, as it is a singular blessing of God, a token of great experience and prudence, as it comes nearest to God, who is called

the Ancient of days, Daniel 7:9. If it be found in the way of righteousness; if it be accompanied with true piety, otherwise an old sinner is accursed, Isaiah 65:20. Heb. it shall be found, &c. This is a privilege promised to righteous persons, Exodus 20:12 Proverbs 3:16 4:22; whereas ungodly men shall not live out half their days, Psalms 55:23.


Verse 32

He that is slow to anger, not apt to revenge, but ready to forgive injuries,

is better than the mighty, because he is more like to God, more wise to foresee and to prevent mischief, both to himself and others, which oft cometh from rash anger, of a more gallant and generous spirit, and more valiant and victorious, as it follows. This is opposed to the perverse judgment of the world, who esteem such persons pusillanimous and cowardly.

That ruleth his spirit; that subdueth his passions; for his victory is the more glorious, because he fights with the stronger enemy; he conquers by his own, and not by other men’s hands, and he gets a greater glory and advantage to himself, and that without the injury and ruin of others, wherewith the conquests of cities are commonly attended.


Verse 33

The lot is cast into the lap; as the ancient practice was in dividing inheritances, and deciding doubtful things, of which see Numbers 26:55 Joshua 7:16 1 Samuel 10:20,21 14:41,42 Pr 1:14 Acts 1:26.

The whole disposing thereof is of the Lord; the event, though casual to men, is directed and determined by God’s counsel and providence.

 


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Bibliography Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Proverbs 16:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/proverbs-16.html. 1685.

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