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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Proverbs 14:34



Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a disgrace to any people.

Adam Clarke Commentary

But sin is a reproach to any people - I am satisfied this is not the sense of the original, חטאת לאמים וחסד vechesed leummim chattath ; which would be better rendered, And mercy is a sin-offering for the people. The Vulgate has, Miseros autem facit populos peccatum, "sin makes the people wretched." Ελασσονουσι δε φυλας ἁμαρτιαι ; "But sins lessen the tribes." - Septuagint. So also the Syriac and Arabic. The plain meaning of the original seems to be, A national disposition to mercy appears in the sight of God as a continual sin-offering. Not that it atones for the sin of the people; but, as a sin-offering is pleasing in the sight of the God of mercy, so is a merciful disposition in a nation. This view of the verse is consistent with the purest doctrines of free grace. And what is the true sense of the words, we should take at all hazards and consequences: we shall never trench upon a sound creed by a literal interpretation of God's words. No nation has more of this spirit than the British nation. It is true, we have too many sanguinary laws; but the spirit of the people is widely different.

If any one will contend for the common version, he has my consent; and I readily agree in the saying, Sin is the reproach of any people. It is the curse and scandal of man. Though I think what I have given is the true meaning of the text.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:34". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Reproach - The word so rendered has this sense in the Targum of Leviticus 20:17. Its more usual meaning is “mercy,” “piety;” hence, some have attached to the word rendered “sin” the sense of “sin-offering,” and so get the maxim “piety is an atonement for the people.”

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These files are public domain.

Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:34". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Proverbs 14:34

Righteousness exalteth a nation.

The advantages of religion to societies

There cannot be a greater prejudice raised against anything than to have it represented as inconvenient and hurtful to our temporal interests. On this account religion has suffered in the opinion of many as being opposed to our present welfare, and likely to rob men of the greatest advantages and conveniences of life. He who would commend religion must reconcile it with the happiness of mankind. The text declares religion and virtue to be advantageous to the public prosperity of a nation. Satisfy men’s reason on this point.

I. Give an account of this truth.

1. From the justice of the Divine Providence. Public bodies, or communities of men, can only be rewarded and punished in this world. St. Austin says that the mighty success and long prosperity of the Romans was reward given them by God for their eminent justice and temperance, and other virtues. But the general and crying sins of a nation cannot hope to escape public judgments. Public judgments are the banks and shores upon which God breaks the insolency of sinners, and stays their proud waves. The experience of all ages hath made this good.

2. From the natural tendency of the thing. Religion and virtue, in their own nature, conduce to the public interest. Religion is the greatest obligation upon conscience to all civil offices and moral duties. Chastity, temperance, and industry do, in their own nature, tend to health and plenty. Truth and fidelity do create mutual love and goodwill. And so almost every vice has some temporal inconvenience annexed to it, and naturally following it. Religion and virtue naturally tend to good order and more easy government of human society, because they have a good influence both upon magistrates and subjects. Religion makes the people more obedient to government and more peaceable one towards another.

II. Vindicate this truth.

1. From the assertion that government may subsist well enough without the belief of a God, and a state of rewards and punishments after this life.

2. From the assertion that virtue and vice are arbitrary things. Inference from this discourse.

Politics and morals

Whatever is morally wrong cannot be politically right. (E. Burke.)

Religion promotes civil welfare

As there is nothing in religion to counteract the design of a wise system of civil polity, so there is nothing in a wise system of civil government to counteract the design of the Christian religion. The exaltation of the nation is the end of civil polity. Righteousness is the end of religion, or rather is religion itself. (J. Saurin.)

The harmony of religion and civil polity

I. State the question clearly. By religion, as exalting a nation, is not meant either the religion of a cruel man, a superstitious person, or an enthusiast. Religion and righteousness must be taken in the true sense of the terms. It is not affirmed that the true religion is so necessary in all its doctrines, and in all the extent of its precepts, that there are no instances of the flourishing of societies which have not been wholly regulated by it. We only affirm that the most sure method that a nation can take to support and exalt itself, is to follow the laws of righteousness and the spirit of religion. It is not affirmed that in every particular case religion is more successful in procuring some temporal advantages than violation of it. We only affirm generally, that the more a society practises virtue, the more prosperity win it enjoy. By “exaltation” is not meant that sort of elevation to which worldly heroes aspire. If we understand by “exalting a nation,” whatever governs with gentleness, negotiates with success, attacks with courage, defends with resolution, and constitutes the happiness of a people, then a nation is only exalted by righteousness. It is not affirmed that the prosperity of such a nation would be so perfect as to exclude all untoward circumstances. An argument against us is taken from the abuses which religion has caused in society. This is removed by taking away false ideas of religion. Another objection is taken from the case of some idolatrous nations, that have arrived at a great height of worldly glory. A third from some particular instance in which vice has proved of more advantage to a state than virtue. A fourth from extravagant notions of glory. A fifth from the evils which the most virtuous societies suffer.

II. Show the ground of the maxim of the wise man. Open six sources of reflections.

1. The idea of society in general.

2. The constitution of each government in particular.

3. The nature of arts and sciences.

4. The conduct of Providence.

5. The promises of God Himself.

6. The history of all ages. (J. Saurin.)

Rectitude uplifting

Righteousness exalteth a nation.

I. In material wealth. Truth, honesty, integrity in a people are the best guarantees of commercial advancement. The more credit a nation has, the more business it can do; and the more business, if rightly conducted, the more will be the accumulation of wealth. It exalts--

II. In social enjoyment. According as the principles of veracity, uprightness, and honour reign in society, will be the freeness, the heartiness, and the enjoyment of social intercourse.

III. In moral power. The true majesty of a kingdom lies in its moral virtue. The state whose heart beats loyally to the eternal principles of rectitude gains an influence upon earth mightier than the mightiest armies or battalions can impart. (Homilist.)

National exaltation

I. “righteousness exalteth a nation.” These words at once reveal to us the great secret in all national improvement, national happiness, national peace and prosperity. Let us not suppose that legislative enactments, criminal laws, courts of justice, and houses of correction, ever can succeed in uprooting vice and implanting virtue, in securing peace and protecting property, in removing sin and exalting the nation. These truly should not be left undone; but never for one moment imagine that in themselves they can remedy the evil. These never can change the heart of man. Think not that a nation’s true, substantial, and lasting greatness consists in power, wealth, noble edifices, princely palaces, extensive cities, warlike achievements, naval victories, commercial enterprise, colonial possessions. Be not dazzled with the glitter and glare of this mere external appearance of greatness.

II. “but sin is a reproach to any people.” This is a striking contrast, a painful transition. From gazing with rapture upon the exaltation of righteousness, we are now to move on to behold with sorrow the degradation of sin. Read the histories of the ancients; and what was the blot which marred and defaced even the most enlightened nations of old? Sin, idolatry, ungodliness, spiritual ignorance: they were “without God in the world.” What was it which caused the Almighty to send famines, pestilences, captivities, and finally destruction, upon His own peculiar people, even the children of Israel? Sin. They rebelled against the words of the Lord, and lightly esteemed the counsel of the Most High. But, alas! we do not require to search the records of the ancients, traverse the wide ocean, and wander to distant shores, to test the truth of this Scriptural declaration. We have ocular demonstrations of it amongst our own people, in our villages and towns. For, what is the blemish which is so visible upon all ranks and classes? Sin. What is it which blackens, darkens, and deadens the noblest mansions, alike with the meanest habitations, spreading misery, ignominy, and wretchedness amongst and around us. (G. J. Morehead, M.A.)

Of the importance of righteousness to civil liberty and national prosperity

To many the doctrine of this text appears paradoxical; by some it is regarded as absurd. The idea is that industry and economy conduct states to wealth and independence: while fleets and armies render that wealth and independence secure and permanent. But good morals are the props and bulwarks of society. “No man liveth unto himself.” Strong and intimate ties link us to those around us. Each one has a relative function to fulfil, and a particular portion to contribute to the general welfare. Kindness, protection, assistance, countenance, must be given and received. In some points or other, we stand exposed to the good or ill-will of every member of our community or nation. Besides the intimate connection between good morals and the glory and happiness of society, it may be maintained that righteousness, and righteousness only, secures to civil liberty and national prosperity their establishment and permanence. It cannot be that the love of liberty, a sentiment in the highest degree exalted and refined, can pervade the bosom which is debased by immoralities. Vices impair the understanding which distinguishes the solid objects of the public weal. The same train of immoralities that perverts the sentiments also debilitates the judgment, and enfeebles its range. (W. Thorburn.)

The glory of a nation

Sin extends its influence over all the relations of life. To the general corruption of mankind, the miseries of individuals, of families, and of nations are owing. The chief good, the true interest of each of these, is to be found only in the victory of truth over error, of holiness over sin.

I. An explanation of the words “righteousness,” and “exaltation.” Righteousness signifies, according to its primitive idea, full weight or measure. It is such a conformity to some law which men are bound to obey as answers all its demands. Exaltation means advancement or promotion to a state of dignity and honour, usefulness and happiness. The exaltation of a nation consists in its intellectual, moral, political, social, and physical excellence.

II. Illustrate the manner in which revealed religion exalteth a nation.

1. Righteousness exalteth the intellectual state of a nation. Righteousness encourages the cultivation of the mind, and enlightens the reason.

2. Righteousness exalteth the moral state of a nation. It unfolds the foundation of genuine morality, and affords the ability of conforming to its precepts. Without the righteousness of faith there is no obedience to the Divine law, such as it requires. Sinners, as such, are immoral in a strict sense, because unrighteous, i.e., disobedient to God’s law. Righteousness, by drawing forth into proper exercise the faculties, and forming correct habits, exalts the morals of individuals and nations.

3. Righteousness exalteth the political state of a nation. It adds its sanctions to the authority of government. It teaches and enforces subordination. It establishes parental authority and family discipline, without which civil communities cannot flourish.

4. Righteousness exalts the social state of a nation. By this is meant their manners. It influences a people to combine gravity with cheerfulness.

5. Righteousness exalteth a nation by promoting its physical state. By this is meant its natural resources, such as its population, wealth, and means of defence.

III. Examine the proofs which history affords of this truth. So far as the principles of righteousness are known among a nation, so far that nation is exalted. Every system of religion will influence its followers according to the interest which it excites in their feelings. Illustrate especially from the history of the Jewish nation. Learn

The blessings of religion to a nation

Righteousness signifies justice and honest dealing. It may be enlarged to include mercy and charity. A more comprehensive meaning is universal obedience to the laws of God.

I. True religion and piety exalteth a nation. Religion is the mother of justice, moderation, mercy, and all other virtues.

1. This it does in itself; being in its own nature a truly great, noble, and honourable thing. A nation’s power without piety is but an ability to do mischief.

2. By virtue of its own natural fruits and consequences, it promotes industry. It disposes men to mind the public good and honour of the nation.

II. Religion procures the blessing of Divine providence upon the country. True religion binds men together, and so makes them mighty and formidable, by removing the causes of division, and by making them feel the happy effects of peace and quietness. True religion increases a people into a multitude by securing chaste marriages, and by inviting other people to resort to it. (Bishop Patrick Symon.)

The benefits of righteousness

I. The beneficial power of righteousness. Righteousness being regarded as the produce of Christianity. If the precepts of the Bible were acted out by the members of the community, there would be banished all that tends to produce discord to its security. The influence of religion is of supreme value on the duties, and also on the trials of life.

II. An objection drawn from the discord to which Christianity has given rise. It must be admitted that Christianity has, all along, been the occasion of much disquietude and unhappiness. But the fault lies, not with Christianity, but with man, who perverts God’s blessings. Admitting the fact, we must strike a balance between the produced wretchedness and the produced happiness. (H. Melvill.)

Our national sins and penalties

When we speak of a national sin we cannot mean anything but that either the great bulk of the nation, or those who have a right to act on behalf of the nation, have joined in the same wrong-doing. It is often necessary to consider sins as the result of men’s joint action, whether that unity of action be conscious or unconscious. A new character attaches to a man’s wrongdoing, if he have joined others in doing it. It is sometimes thought that what is unjustifiable in the individual, is justified when it is united action. But God has surely attached evil issues to evil deeds, for the mass as certainly as for the individual. Illustrate by the national sin which now leavens our whole trade and commerce. Can it be denied that the want of uprightness which meets us at every turn has risen to the proportion of a national sin? Healthy business unquestionably gains enormously by mutual trust, and if all trust were abolished, commerce would move in fetters. And yet trust is becoming more difficult every day. The punishment appointed for such a sin is that the lesson of guile will be learnt, and then practised on yourself in turn. Another prevalent sin is, a kind of arrogance, which sometimes goes so far as to end in a total forgetfulness that others have rights as well as we. All the world over, the Englishman is known as the sternest and most resolute upholder of justice. But this, strange to say, has one almost insurmountable element--the Englishman is ever demanding, tacitly or openly, an acknowledgment of his own superiority. He does not readily allow that others have rights as well as he, rights to be respected as much as his. Rights may be confessed in the abstract, but a practical assertion of the rights of others is repugnant to an Englishman. He inclines to exalt, not righteousness, but strength. And yet what is more glorious than a name of absolute uprightness? What nobler record for any nation than that of never having put anything whatever, not even her own self, above the call of what is right. It is not the first time that the choice for strength rather than righteousness has been made. Illustrate from the later Republic of Rome, and from the course Spain took with her colonial empire. (Archbishop Temple.)

Christian polities

I. Some wrong estimates of national greatness.

1. Some say a character for shrewdness.

2. The estimate of a diplomatist would be erroneous.

3. So would that of the social economist.

4. And the warrior.

5. The mere place-hunter.

6. And even the historian.

II. The proper estimate of national greatness.

1. Righteousness supposes individual integrity. The character of a people is determined by its units. Individual integrity means an adherence to truth at all hazards.

2. Righteousness implies a respect for human nature. A recognition of the value of life and the soul.

3. Righteousness farther involves the disposition that concedes to our fellow-men the liberties we enjoy. A policy of monopoly is a policy of unrighteousness.

4. Righteousness requires that political justice be rendered to other nations.

5. It necessitates compliance with the law of progress. And--

6. That we regulate our political action by our duty to God. All political convictions should contain the elements of godliness--piety and patriotism should be joined in holy wedlock. (W. J. Acomb.)

Ministers of religion to aid national righteousness

Christian men sustain a twofold relation--a relation to the gospel and a relation to the state. Their duty with respect to crime is like the duty of a good gardener with respect to weeds. He will try to crowd out the weeds by planting an abundance of good seed; but when the weeds succeed in getting root and growing he will go about with his hoe and dig them out. Now, there are some well-meaning people who believe that Christian ministers, to say nothing of Christian laymen, ought to use the first method in combating crime, but not the second. They hold that ministers ought to preach and preach, whether they have any listeners to profit by their preaching or not, but that they ought never to exhort voters as to their duty in electing righteous lawmakers, or prod lazy or corrupt legislators, or rebuke inefficient police officials. They would have us believe that ministers of the gospel ought to merely plant the seeds of righteousness, and if the weeds of sin come to poison the good seed utterly, well, never mind, it is not the business of the ministers to try to root them out. There are good people who hold that view; but it is untenable. These good people mean well, but they are misguided. (G. F. Greene.)

Christian institutions useful to the nation

Christian institutions, such as the family and the Sabbath, tend to prolong life and increase the population. Many heathen tribes, lacking these, have become all but extinct; and, other things being equal, civilised nations multiply in proportion as Christ is practically acknowledged as their Head and Lord, and as Christian institutions are embraced. In 1851 the population of France was about double that of England and Wales; in the ten years from 1851 to 1861 the increase of population in England and Wales was more than double that in France; so that the proportionate increase per cent is fully four to one in favour of the country where the Sabbath is recognised, and the domestic virtues are upheld. (Wesleyan S. S. Magazine.)

Virtue essential to national prosperity

Trade is a fluctuating thing; it passed from Tyre to Alexandria, from Alexandria to Venice, from Venice to Antwerp, from Antwerp to Amsterdam and London, the English rivalling the Dutch, as the French are now rivalling both. All nations almost are wisely applying themselves to trade, and it behoves those who are in possession of it, to take the greatest care that they do not lose it. It is a plant of tender growth, it requires sun and soil and fine seasons to make it thrive and flourish. It will not grow like the palm-tree, which, with the more weight and pressure, rises the more. Liberty is a friend to that, as that is a friend to liberty. But the greatest enemy to both, is licentiousness which tramples upon all law and lawful authority, encourages riots and tumults, promotes drunkenness and debauchery, sticks at nothing to support its extravagance, practises every art of illicit gain, ruins credit, ruins trade, and will in the end ruin liberty itself. Neither kingdoms nor commonwealths, neither public companies nor private persons, can long carry on a beneficial and flourishing trade without virtue, and what virtue teacheth--sobriety, industry, frugality, modesty, honesty, punctuality, humanity, charity, the love of our country, and the fear of God. (Bishop Newton.)

Sin is a reproach to any people.--

The evil effects of sin

The sentence may be read, “Sin is the poverty, depression, or sinking of any people.”

1. It is the nature of sin to lessen and diminish a people. The most populous nations have been reduced to a handful by the prevalence of vice--Israel, Greeks, Romans.

2. It is the nature of sin to sink and depress the spirits of a people. A people confirmed in the habits of vice, have no heart to labour, to think, to form, or to execute any virtuous designs. Their genius withers, their exertions languish, their hopes, their honours, their virtues perish.

3. It is the nature of sin to destroy the wealth of a nation, and subject them to all the evils and reproaches of poverty. Some species of fraud may, for a time, advance a person or people in wealth and grandeur. Yet vice, according to its natural course, will eventually involve them in poverty and shame.

4. It is the nature of sin to deprive a people of the blessings of freedom, and involve them in the misery and meanness of slavery. Vice has the same effect upon the body politic that sickness has upon the natural body. Vice destroyed the liberties of Greece. Vice subverted the freedom of Rome.

5. It is the nature of vice to provoke the displeasure of God, and draw down His judgments, which complete the ruin of a people. (D. Emmons, D.D.)

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Proverbs 14:34". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

"Righteousness exalteth a nation, But sin is a reproach to any people."

The Court House of Grayson County, Sherman, Texas, inscribed these words on their new building in 1929. "This much quoted and penetrating test of national greatness is abundantly attested throughout history." It is precisely this truth which is not receiving the attention that it deserves in America today.

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James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:34". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Righteousness exalteth a nation,.... Administered by the government, and exercised by subjects towards one another; doing justice between man and man: this exalts a nation, as it did the people of Israel, while practised among them; this sets a people above their neighbours, and high in the esteem of God and men; and is attended with privileges and blessings, which make a nation great and honourable. Some understand this of aims deeds, or beneficence to the poor; which, both in the Hebrew and Greek languages, is called righteousness; See Gill on Matthew 6:1. It may be put for the whole of true religion, which is an honour to a nation, where it obtains; and is what makes the holy nation, and peculiar people, so truly illustrious; and particularly the righteousness of Christ makes such who are interested in it really great and noble, and promotes and exalts them to heaven and happiness;

but sin is a reproach to any people; where vice reigns, iniquity abounds, profaneness, impiety, and immorality of all sorts prevail, a people become mean and despicable; they fall into poverty and contempt; are neither able to defend themselves, nor help their neighbours, and so are despised by them. The word rendered "reproach" most commonly signifies "mercy" or goodness; and some render it, "and the mercy of a people is a sin offering"F16חסד לאמים חטאת "beneficentia expiatio est populi", Grotius; "sacrificium expiatorium", Tigurine version; "velut sacrificium pro peccato", Vatablus, Gejerus; "gratuita beneificentia nationibus est aliquid sacrificium peccati expiatorium", Gussetius, p. 74. ; or as one: or it is so "to the nations"; it is as good as a sacrifice for sin, of which the word is sometimes used, or better, more acceptable to God, "who will have mercy, and not sacrifice", Matthew 9:13; even beneficence and kindness to the poor, the same with righteousness, as before. I think it may be as well rendered, "the piety" or religion "of the nations is sin"F17"Pietas nationum est peccatium", Munster, Mercerus; "studium nationum peccatum", Cocceius. ; it being idolatry, as Aben Ezra observes: such is the religion of the antichristian nations, who worship idols of gold and silver; and though they may afflict themselves, as Gersom remarks of the idolatrous nations, with fasting and penance, with whippings and scourgings; yet it is nothing else but sin, will worship, and superstition.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:34". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Righteousness — just principles and actions.

exalteth — raises to honor.

is a reproach — brings on them the ill-will of others (compare Proverbs 13:6).

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:34". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

Two proverbs follow regarding the state and its ruler:

34 Righteousness exalteth a nation,

And sin is a disgrace to the people.

The Hebr. language is richer in synonyms of “the people” than the German. גּוי (formed like the non-bibl. מוי , water, and נוי , corporealness, from גּוה , to extend itself from within outward; cf. Proverbs 9:3, גּפּי , Proverbs 10:13, גּו ) is, according to the usus loq ., like natio the people, as a mass swollen up from a common origin, and עם , 28a (from עמם , to bind), the people as a confederation held together by a common law; לאם (from לאם , to unite, bind together) is the mass (multitude) of the people, and is interchanged sometimes with גוי , Genesis 25:23, and sometimes with עם , Proverbs 14:28. In this proverb, לאמּים stands indeed intentionally in the plur., but not גוי , with the plur. of which גּוים , the idea of the non-Israelitish nations, too easily connects itself. The proverb means all nations without distinction, even Israel (cf. under Isaiah 1:4) not excluded. History everywhere confirms the principle, that not the numerical, nor the warlike, nor the political, nor yet the intellectual and the so-called civilized greatness, is the true greatness of a nation, and determines the condition of its future as one of progress; but this is its true greatness, that in its private, public, and international life, צדקה , i.e. , conduct directed by the will of God, according to the norm of moral rectitude, rules and prevails. Righteousness, good manners, and piety are the things which secure to a nation a place of honour, while, on the contrary, חטּאת , sin, viz., prevailing, and more favoured and fostered than contended against in the consciousness of the moral problem of the state, is a disgrace to the people, i.e. , it lowers them before God, and also before men who do not judge superficially or perversely, and also actually brings them down. רומם , to raise up, is to be understood after Isaiah 1:2, cf. Proverbs 23:4, and is to be punctuated תּרומם , with Munach of the penult ., and the העמדה -sign with the Tsere of the last syllable. Ben-Naphtali punctuates thus: תּרומם . In 34b all the artifices of interpretation (from Nachmani to Schultens) are to be rejected, which interpret חסד as the Venet . ( ἔλεος δὲ λαῶν ἁμαρτία ) in its predominant Hebrew signification. It has here, as at Leviticus 20:17 (but not Job 6:14), the signification of the Syr. chesdho , opprobrium ; the Targ. חסדּא , or more frequently חסּוּדא , as among Jewish interpreters, is recognised by Chanan'el and Rashbam. That this חסד is not foreign to the Mishle style, is seen from the fact that חסּד , Proverbs 25:10, is used in the sense of the Syr. chasedh . The synon. Syr. chasam , invidere, obtrectare , shows that these verbal stems are formed from the R. הס , stringere , to strike. Already it is in some measure perceived how חסד , Syr. chasadh , Arab. hasada , may acquire the meaning of violent love, and by the mediation of the jealousy which is connected with violent love, the signification of grudging, and thus of reproach and of envy; yet this is more manifest if one thinks of the root-signification stringere, in the meaning of loving, as referred to the subject, in the meanings of disgrace and envy, as from the subject directed to others. Ewald (§51c) compares חסל and חסר , Ethiop. chasra , in the sense of carpere , and on the other side חסה in the sense of “to join;” but חסה does not mean to join ( vid ., Psalms 2:12) and instead of carpere , the idea more closely connected with the root is that of stringere , cf. stringere folia ex arboribus (Caesar), and stringere (to diminish, to squander, strip) rem ingluvie (Horace, Sat . i. 2. 8). The lxx has here read חסר (Proverbs 28:22), diminution, decay, instead of חסד (shame); the quid pro quo is not bad, the Syr. accepts it, and the miseros facit of Jerome, and Luther's verderben (destruction) corresponds with this phrase better than with the common traditional reading which Symmachus rightly renders by ὄνειδος .

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The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.

Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:34". 1854-1889.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Note, 1. Justice, reigning in a nation, puts an honour upon it. A righteous administration of the government, impartial equity between man and man, public countenance given to religion, the general practice and profession of virtue, the protecting and preserving of virtuous men, charity and compassion to strangers (alms are sometimes called righteousness ), these exalt a nation; they uphold the throne, elevate the people's minds, and qualify a nation for the favour of God, which will make them high, as a holy nation, Deuteronomy 26:19. 2. Vice, reigning in a nation, puts disgrace upon it: Sin is a reproach to any city or kingdom, and renders them despicable among their neighbours. The people of Israel were often instances of both parts of this observation; they were great when they were good, but when they forsook God all about them insulted them and trampled on them. It is therefore the interest and duty of princes to use their power for the suppression of vice and support of virtue.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Proverbs 14:34". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Piety and holiness always promote industry, sobriety, and honesty.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Henry, Matthew. "Concise Commentary on Proverbs 14:34". "Matthew Henry Concise Commentary

on the Whole Bible". 1706.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Proverbs 14:34 Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin [is] a reproach to any people.

Ver. 34. Righteousness exalteth a nation.] True religion and the power of godliness is the beauty and bulwark of a state; [Deuteronomy 28:13] so are good laws, enacted and executed. This made "the faithful city" [Isaiah 1:21] to be the princess of provinces; [Lamentations 1:1] that land a "land of desire, a heritage of glory"; [Jeremiah 3:19] even "the glory of all nations." [Ezekiel 20:6] Josephus calls tile commonwealth Yεοκρατειαν; and Prosper’s conceit is, that Iudaei Judah, were so called because they received ius Dei. law of God, It was said of old, Angli quasi Angeli, and Anglia regnum Dei. England was called the kingdom of God, and Albion quasi Olbion, a happy country, the paradise of pleasure and garden of God. (a) Now the Lord is with us while we are with him, &c.; but if we cast off the yoke of his obedience, as Capernaum, though lifted up to heaven, we shall be brought down to hell. Sins are the snuffs that dim our candlestick, and threaten the removal of it; the leaven that defiles our passovers, and urges God to pass away and depart from us; the reproach that will render us a proverb and a byword, [Deuteronomy 28:37] an astonishment and a hissing, [Jeremiah 25:9] like Sodom and her sisters, a reproach and a taunt; [Ezekiel 5:15] which to prevent, Currat poenitentia, ne praecurrat sententia. {b} Mittamus preces et lachrymas cordis legatos. (c) Let us break off our sins, and cry mightily to God; for otherwise a dismal change, a sad removal of our candlestick, may be as certainly foreseen and foretold as if visions and letters were sent us from heaven, as once to those seven churches of Asia. [Revelation 2:1-29; Revelation 3:1-22]

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:34". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

v. 34. Righteousness exalteth a nation, the exercise of true moral uprightness in every department of a nation's activity will set such a nation up on high, tend to give it material prosperity, for God rewards civil righteousness in such a manner; but sin is a reproach to any people; if it is openly countenanced in a nation, the consequence is shame, disgrace, injury, decrease, destruction.

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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:34". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". 1921-23.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Proverbs 14:34. But a sin is a reproach to any people Schultens renders this, And the beneficence of nations is their expiation; which appears to be perfectly agreeable to the Hebrew: nor can there be a more pleasing or a more just observation. According as nations exercise mercy, compassion, and justice, towards others; they will obtain the favour and protection of God. It is agreeable to consider the expression in this view, in an age, when, however defective we may be in the estimate of severer moralists, there can be no doubt that the high virtues of benevolence and humanity shine forth among us with a distinguished lustre; for which we may hope the God of compassions will still look with a favourable eye upon our land, protecting us by his mighty arm, and blessing us with his fatherly kindness. We must here recollect, that nations, as such, must be rewarded or punished in this world. Individuals only will be responsible on the day of judgment, each for himself.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:34". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Exalteth a nation; maketh it honourable in the eyes of God, and of all other nations, as it did the ancient Romans.

A reproach to any people; brings contempt and ruin upon them by provoking both God and men against them.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Proverbs 14:34". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

34. Righteousness exalteth a nation: (both to honour and prosperity:) but sin is a reproach to any people — Literally, to nations. The latter clause has been the subject of great controversy, with great names on both sides. Some adhere to and defend the translation of the Authorized Version. “The plain meaning,” says Clarke, “seems to be: A national disposition to mercy appears in the sight of God as a continual sin offering, not that it atones for sin, but as a sin offering is pleasing to the God of mercy, so is a merciful disposition in a nation.” The primary idea of the root is that of eager and earnest desire, ardour, zeal; and this, when carried out into the tropical senses, diverges in two directions, either to good desires and good dispositions toward any one. or to a zealous hatred against one, which is expressed in reproach.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:34". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Proverbs 14:34. Righteousness exalteth a nation — A righteous administration of the government of it, impartial equity between man and man, public countenance given to religion, the general practice and profession of virtue, the protecting and preserving of virtuous men, mercy, humanity, and kindness to strangers and enemies: these things put honour upon a nation, and exalt it in the eyes of God, and of all other nations. But sin is a reproach to any people — Brings contempt and ruin upon them, by provoking both God and men against them.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:34". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Miserable. This sentence ought to be engraven in all public places. Hebrew, "and mercy the sinful people," whom God spares on account of their alms-deeds, (Daniel iv. 24.) or "sin is the shame of peoples." (Calmet) --- Montanus renders chesed mercy, and Pagnin "ignominy." The former is scarcely intelligible, et misericordia populorum peccatum, unless sin be here taken for a sin-offering, (Haydock) as it is by Vatable, Grotius, &c. (Calmet)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:34". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

exalteth . . . But, &c. Illustrations: Deuteronomy 4:6; Deuteronomy 4:28; 1 Kings 9:7-9; 2 Chronicles 15:3, 2 Chronicles 15:5, 2 Chronicles 15:6; compare Joshua 1:8; Joshua 10:42; Joshua 23:14 with Judges 1:2, &c.; compare 2 Chronicles 17:2-5, 2 Chronicles 17:10, 2 Chronicles 17:11, and 2 Kings 18:7 with 2Ki 16. Compare the Canaanites (Leviticus 18:24-30); Egypt (Exodus 12:12. Ezekiel 29:1-15); Amalekites (Exodus 17:16. 1Sam 15; Babylon (Isaiah 14:4-23. Isaiah 47:6-15); Moab (Isaiah 16:6, Isaiah 16:7); Tyre (Ezekiel 28:2-8. Isaiah 23:1-9): Nineveh (Zephaniah 2:11-15).

people = peoples.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:34". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.

Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin (is) a reproach to any people - Hebrew, 'to peoples,' plural; whereas "a nation" is singular, implying the paucity of the nations observing righteousness, and the multitude of those that nationally sin. The Hebrew for "reproach" (chesed) means also mercy. Hence, Gejer translates, 'Mercy is an expiatory sacrifice for sin;' "sin" being sometimes used for sin offering (Exodus 29:14; Hosea 4:8). Not that mercy puts away sin before God, but before men, who are by mercy reconciled to those who had before been unmerciful to them. But the Chaldaic ('sin is the reproach of a people') supports the English version. So in the main Vulgate ('sin makes people miserable'). The Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic ('sins diminish peoples'). In Leviticus 20:17, chesed is used for "shameful wickedness."

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:34". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(34) Righteousness.—See above, on Proverbs 10:2.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:34". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.
Deuteronomy 4:6-8; 28:1-14; Judges 2:6-14; Jeremiah 2:2-25; Hosea 13:1
Deuteronomy 28:15-68; 29:18-28; Psalms 107:34; Ezekiel 16:1-63; 22:1-23
any people
Heb. nations.

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:34". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary


Pro . The Hebrew word for reproach means also "mercy." Hence Gejer and Miller translate "Mercy for nations is the sin-offering," the word sin being often used to express the sin-offering.



I. Some standard of right and wrong is necessary to national existence. There are men who have affirmed that there is no such thing as virtue and vice—that they are only inventions of those who desire to rule their fellow-creatures, and that the world could do without them. But experience teaches the contrary. Every nation, if it is to have an existence, even if it rejects a Divine revelation, or is ignorant of it, must have some standard by which to judge human actions. Without the recognition of such a standard, even if it is only based upon the light of reason, not only would national prosperity be impossible, but national existence. Rome and Greece had such standards as well as Israel, although the first-mentioned nations had no revelation from heaven except that of the natural conscience, and if all the existing codes were abolished to-morrow men would find it necessary to form others in order to preserve their national, if not their individual existence.

II. The prosperity and influence of a nation is in proportion to its national righteousness. This is not the case of the individual man. His present condition and circumstances, the measure of power that he possesses, or the amount of the influence he exerts, is no index of the amount of righteousness which he possesses. He may be a noble of the land, or he may have no social standing; he may fare sumptuously every day, or he may subsist on the crumbs that fall from the rich man's table, and neither from the one lot or the other can any conclusion be drawn as to what his moral standing is. There is another world in which the righteous man will be exalted, and the unrighteous man will reap the reward of unrighteousness; but national righteousness and unrighteousness receive their reward in this world.

1. Righteous dealing in a nation promotes its commercial prosperity. If the merchants of a nation are known to be honest in their transactions and truthful in their words, they will gain and hold a high place in the markets of the world.

2. It secures it an influence among the governing powers of the world. In proportion as its intercourse with other nations is marked, not by a lust for conquest or a desire to rule, no matter by what means—but by a recognition of the rights of all—in that proportion will it acquire a power far more real and far more lasting than that gained by its ability to outdo other nations in the number of its soldiers or the size of its navy.

III. National reproach for sin will be in proportion to its possession of a high or low moral standard. "Sin is a reproach to any people;" but it is the greatest reproach to those who possess the greatest light. The sin of Israel was a greater reproach to them than the sin of the Philistines was to them, because the one possessed the light of a Divine revelation, and the other did not. So in the present day, the nations who sin against the light of the revealed word of God are far greater sinners than those upon whom that light has never shone. The principle to which the Divine Son gave utterance concerning the Jewish nation is the one by which He judges nations in the present day. "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin; but now they have no cloak for their sin (Joh ).


As there is nothing in religion to counteract the design of a wise system of civil polity, so there is nothing in a wise system of civil government to counteract the design of the Christian religion. The exaltation of the nation is the end of civil polity. Righteousness is the end of religion, or rather is religion itself.—Saurin.

It is the nature of sin

(1) to lesson and diminish a people;

(2) to sink and depress the spirit of a people;

(3) to destroy the wealth of a people;

(4) to deprive them of the blessings of freedom;

(5) to provoke the displeasure of God and to draw down His judgments.—Emmons, in "Lange's Commentary."

Righteousness is both "the prop to make it subsist firm in itself and a crown to make it glorious in the eyes of others" (Bp. Sanderson). Greece in her proud science, Rome in the zenith of her glory, both were sunk in the lowest depths of moral degradation (Rom was a picture of the heathen world in the best ages of refinement). Their greatness consisted only in the visions of poesy or the dream of philosophy. Contrast the influence of righteousness, bringing out of the most debased barbarism a community impregnated with all the high principles that form a nation's well-being. Thus to christianise is to regenerate, to elevate the community, to "exalt the nation," and that not with a sudden flash of shadowy splendour, but with a solid glory, fraught with every practical blessing. "Those princes and commonwealths who would keep their governments entire and uncorrupt, are, above all things, to have a care of religion and its ceremonies, and preserve them in due veneration. For in the whole world there is not a greater sign of imminent ruin than when God and His worship are despised." Such was the testimony of the profligate politician Machiavel.… What an enemy an ungodly man is to his country! Loudly though he may talk of his patriotism, and even though God should make him an instrument to advance her temporal interest; yet he contributes, so far as in him lies, to her deepest reproach.—Bridges.

Religion and virtue do naturally tend to the good order and more easy government of human society, because they have a good influence both upon magistrates and subjects.

1. Upon magistrates. Religion teaches them to rule over men in the fear of God, because though they be gods on earth, yet they are subjects of heaven, and accountable to him who is higher than the highest in this world. Religion in a magistrate strengthens his authority because it procures veneration and gains a reputation to it. And in all affairs of the world so much reputation is so much power.

2. Upon subjects. First, it makes them obedient to government, and conformable to laws; and that not only out of fear of power, which is but a weak and loose principle of obedience, but out of conscience, which is a firm, and constant and lasting principle, and will hold a man fast when all other obligations will break. Secondly, it tends to make men peaceable with one another. For it endeavours to plant all those qualities and dispositions in men which tend to peace and unity, and to fill men with a spirit of universal love and good-will. It endeavours likewise to secure every man's interest, by commanding the observation of that great rule of equity, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them."—Tillotson.

We find the great general principle of Divine Providence, in regard to nations, thus laid down by Jehovah Himself to the prophet Jeremiah—"At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up and to pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation against whom I have pronounced turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil which I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; if it do evil in My sight, that it obey not My voice, then I will repent of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them" (Jer ). This was a principle, not applicable to Israel exclusively—for we find it expressly applied to the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the inhabitants of Sodom and of Nineveh. And the Old Testament bringing before us specimens of the Divine administration, the Spirit of God letting us so far into the secrets of its principles and laws, we have every reason to believe that in the government of God over the world, the same principle is still in operation, though we may not be able to trace it—that, had we only an inspired record of what takes place now, we should see it clearly in all cases; and even without such a record there are cases in which it would be equal impiety and blindness not to discern and own it.—Wardlaw.

"Righteousness" means saving righteousness, and "Sin-offering" is literally sin. (See Critical Notes). "Righteousness" lifts to the very skies. "The mercy of nations," as the words literally are, is not wealth, or peace, or a good king, or broad lands of plenty, but an interest in Christ, "the sin-offering," and a home amongst the happy.—Miller.

"Peoples" is plural, whereas "a nation" is singular, implying the paucity of the nations observing righteousness. The Hebrew word for reproach meaning also mercy, Gejer translates, "Mercy is an expiratory sacrifice for sin." Not that mercy puts away sin before God, but before men, who are by mercy reconciled to those who had before been unmerciful to them.—Fausset.

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Proverbs 14:34". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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