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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Proverbs 24

 

 

Verse 1-2

1, 2. Be not thou envious תקנא, (tekanne,) jealous, angry, or excited.

The radical idea is heat. See Proverbs 24:19; also Proverbs 28:5; Proverbs 23:17; Proverbs 23:3; Proverbs 23:6; Psalms 37:1; Psalms 73:3. On Proverbs 24:2 comp. Psalms 10:7. The good things of this life — health, wealth, station, honours, etc., are desirable. Wicked men often enjoy them, and good men often lack them. This has always been a source of perplexity and temptation to the righteous. Why should the ungodly prosper while the godly suffer? Thoughts like these arise, as they did in the mind of the psalmist. (Psalms 73:3.) Hence the frequent admonition, not to envy the prosperity of the wicked, as though they were happier in their sins and riches than the righteous are in their piety and poverty. The Judge of all the earth will do right. It is ours to believe and wait.


Verse 3

3. A house — A family, an estate, is built up by wisdom and established by understanding, rather than by the fraudulent acts of designing men. Right means may do it more slowly, perhaps, than wrong ones, but more surely and lastingly. Comp. Proverbs 14:1; Proverbs 3:19.


Verse 4

4. By knowledge — By skill, intelligence in business, accompanied by a cultivated taste, which is tacitly included in the other term, a house is filled and a family supplied, not only with the necessaries, but with the conveniences, comforts, and ornaments, of domestic life. Comp. Proverbs 3:10; Proverbs 8:21.


Verse 5

5. A wise man is strong — Powerful — “Knowledge is power.” If physical strength is defective, it supplies the defects; and whatever be the strength, skill and dexterity will greatly add thereto. Machines, which are the product of knowledge, have greatly increased the power of man. Wisdom gives influence.

Increaseth strength — Makes firm, confirms. Comp. Proverbs 2:14; Job 19:19; Ecclesiastes 9:14; Ecclesiastes 9:16.


Verse 6

6. By wise counsel… war — This is a combination of two halves of proverbs which are recorded in Proverbs 11:14, and Proverbs 20:18. Compare also Proverbs 15:22. It may be considered an illustration of the preceding maxim. It is only by wise counsels, ordinarily, that wars can be successful. Skilful strategy often accomplishes more than physical force. It may be intended, also, as a precept for rulers. Stuart renders: “For with skilful management must thou make war for thyself, and there is discretion in much counsel.” Zockler: “Victory in abundance of counsel.” Comp. Proverbs 15:22; Proverbs 20:18; Proverbs 11:14.


Verse 7

7. Wisdom is too high for a fool — Is inaccessible to him; he cannot reach unto it.

Openeth not his mouth in the gate — Is not capable of pleading a cause in court, or of addressing a public assembly; is not intrusted with responsibility either as a judge or counseller. The “gates” of cities were the places of concourse and of the courts of justice. Compare Proverbs 22:22.


Verse 8

8. He that deviseth to do evil — A master of mischief. “Mischief and wrong are his ownership and property.” — Wordsworth. “Inventors of evil things.” Romans 1:30. The inventor or discoverer of a good thing is a benefactor of the race; but he who spends his time in inventing that which will injure his fellow man is the greatest of curses — a fiend incarnate. The same is true of those who follow, though they may not invent, a business or calling which is destructive to the health, life, and morals of their fellow beings. Such is the manufacture and traffic in intoxicating drinks, the making and vending of obscene literature, etc.


Verse 9

9. The thought (device or purpose) of foolishness is sin — A wicked device is sinful. A man is accountable for his thoughts, plans, purposes, as well as for his deeds. “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts,” etc.

Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:21. The scorner — Or scoffer.


Verse 10

10. If thou faint Adversity tests the moral strength of men. To faint under trial is a sign of moral weakness. The interpreters differ as to the exact sense.


Verse 11-12

11, 12. If thou forbear to deliver… his works — Muenscher’s translation and note are: “Dost thou forbear to deliver [those who are] led away to death, and those who are tottering to the slaughter? Dost thou say, Behold, we know not these [men?] Will not He that weigheth the hearts observe [it]? Yea, he that keepeth thy soul knoweth [it]; and he will render to every man according to his work.” When a criminal was led to execution, a crier went before, who proclaimed the crime of which he had been convicted, and called on all who could say any thing in his behalf to come forward; in case any did he was led back to the tribunal and the cause was reheard. The proverb contains an implied exhortation to assist the unfortunate, to succour the distressed, and vindicate the innocent, for God knows and will judge. See Lowth on Isaiah 53. Compare Psalms 49:16; Psalms 62:12; Isaiah 53:37, 38; Job 34:11; Jeremiah 32:19; Romans 2:6; Revelation 22:12.


Verse 13-14

13, 14. Eat thou honey — These two verses, taken together, imply a comparison. There is first what seems a simple precept concerning diet, which is afterwards applied to the acquisition of wisdom. The sense may be given thus: As thou eatest honey because it is good, (Psalms 19:10,) and the droppings of the honeycomb because they are sweet to thy palate, so do thou mentally know, or taste, wisdom for thyself. If thou find it, there shall be a [happy] hereafter, and thy hope shall not be cut off. Stuart renders: “If thou hast found it, and there is a hereafter, then thy expectation shall not be cut off.” Here, as in Proverbs 23:18, where the same word ( אחרית, ahharith) occurs, the apparent conditionality is not one of doubt, but a supposed case, the reality of which is assumed; as sure as there is a hereafter — like the phrase, If there be a God, he will punish such wickedness. Comp. Proverbs 23:18 .


Verse 15-16

15, 16. Falleth seven times — The falling, here, is not into sin, but into calamity of any kind. Stuart, who, as a Calvinist, thinks the rising again from moral lapses is also true, yet remarks that the sense here does not point to moral lapses, but to misfortunes. The annotators are generally agreed on this point. The Hebrew verb here used for falling is never used of falling into sin. “Seven times” means an indefinite number — several or many. Compare Proverbs 4:19. The text is sometimes misquoted — “seven times a day” — and applied as an excuse by men who indulge themselves in sin and yet think themselves good, or wish to be thought so. The point of the teaching is, not the liability of even good men to err, but God’s providential care over them; as in Psalms 34:19. So Speaker’s Commentary. Compare Job 5:19; Psalms 34:19; Psalms 37:24.


Verse 17-18

17, 18. Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth — The difficulty of this proverb is in the apparent lowness, not to say unworthiness, of the motive presented for abstaining from exultation over the calamity of an enemy, lest the Lord cease to punish him. But it is to be remembered, that it was Christ who first emphatically taught us to love and forgive our enemies, and that the proverb is not anti but ante-Christian. Even good men formerly thought it not wrong to hate their enemies, (Matthew 5:43,) and to wish and seek to do them harm. When, therefore, such a wicked enemy fell into any calamity, it was natural for even good men to rejoice over it. But as the feeling was liable to be more of a personal and selfish one than simply one of satisfaction in retributive justice for its own sake, the proverb was designed to modify and abate the feelings natural in the circumstances.


Verse 19

19. Fret not thyself — Be not excited, enraged. This proverb may be related to the preceding.


Verse 20

20. No reward — No future reward, no hereafter. (Stuart.) There shall be no future of blessedness, whether in this world or the next.

Candle — Lamp, a metaphor of prosperity and happiness. Comp. Job 20:5; Job 21:17; Psalms 37:2; Proverbs 13:9. Read, also, Psalms 37, 78, as a commentary on this verse.


Verse 21

21. Meddle not — Mingle not, associate not, with them that are given to change — revolters, revolutionists, innovators, reckless agitators; disorganizers, disturbers of the peace, whether in Church or State; “men that are seditious.” — Geneva Bible. The precept is a general one, and as such subject to exceptions and limitations. It is here, no doubt, specially directed against those who would set aside the service of the true God and of the true king, who was supposed to represent him. Comp. Proverbs 16:14.


Verse 22

22. The ruin of them both — That is, the ruin that proceeds from God and the king, who knoweth how, or how soon, it will come? So some: but others take it to be that of which these revolters — those who fear not God and those who fear not the king — are the authors. Comp. Proverbs 16:14.

Here commences what many commentators regard as a new section, an addendum to this part of the book.


Verse 23

23. Belong to the wise — Or, are the words of the wise.

Respect of persons — Literally, to recognise faces. This is a precept especially suited to magistrates. Such are not to favour a man because of friendship or influential position, but must deal out justice impartially. This is almost identical with Proverbs 18:5 and Proverbs 28:21; Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 1:17; John 7:24.


Verse 24-25

24, 25. He that saith — These verses seem related to the same general subject as the preceding — wise and impartial judgment.

A good blessing shall come upon them — A blessing of God, or, the blessing of the good, the benediction of all good people is due to them that reprove wrong doing. Comp. Proverbs 17:15; Isaiah 5:23.


Verse 26

26. Shall kiss lips that giveth a right answer — When a judge speaks upright words — gives a just decision — men salute him with respect and affection. Zockler says: Faithful and truthful answers affect one as favourably as the most agreeable caress. It is probable that there is here an allusion to the Eastern custom of kissing the writing which contains the order of a ruler or a judge. The passage is rendered by the Septuagint thus: “Lips shall kiss those things that answer (to) right words:” that is, those writings or decrees which correspond to the principles of equity and justice shall be treated with the utmost reverence. Compare Genesis 27:26, Genesis 29:11; Genesis 29:13; Genesis 33:4; Genesis 48:10; Genesis 50:1; 1 Samuel 10:1; 1 Samuel 20:41; 2 Samuel 20:9; 2 Samuel 15:5; Luke 9:38; Luke 15:20; Acts 20:39, etc.


Verse 27

27. Prepare thy work without… afterwards build thine house — The sense is, first sustenance, then accommodation. The proverb is better adapted to a climate like that of parts of Palestine than to many others, though it has a qualified application in most countries. In some climates, however, a house comes in among the prime necessities. But it is a great error in a man of moderate circumstances to expend his slender capital upon an expensive house. The proverb may refer, as some suppose, to the founding or building of a house in a metaphorical sense, that is, a family. Thus it may be a warning against hasty and imprudent marriage. A young man should cultivate his land and have the means of living before he takes the burdens of a family. So Speaker’s Commentary.


Verse 28-29

28, 29. Be not a witness… without cause — The sense is: Do not be forward to accuse or bear witness against thy neighbour, where the claims of justice do not require it; nor deceive others into a false opinion of him by evil insinuations: especially beware of doing so in revenge for his former misdeeds against thyself. Compare Proverbs 20:22; Proverbs 23:29.


Verses 30-34

30-34. This is a most instructive parable, and needs little explication, though much might be said in amplification. A few notes must suffice.

I went by — Not casually and carelessly, but as a diligent observer.

All grown over — The “thorns” in the vineyard and the “nettles” in the field had crowded out the grain which the one should have produced, and the fruit which ought to have adorned the other, and both which should have enriched their owner. The language is very forcible. Then I gazed; I considered, or set my heart; I saw, I received admonition. His solemn premonition to the sluggard follows. Comp. Proverbs 6:9. As one that travelleth — Probably a highwayman.

An armed man — A man of the shield — possibly alluding to the king’s executioners. These last two verses are the same as Proverbs 6:10-11, where see notes.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 24:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/proverbs-24.html. 1874-1909.

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