Proverbs 18:1-19:7

Proverbs 18:1‑19:7  •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 6
The first verse seems difficult, and certainly has been rendered differently. The sense in the A.V. does not resemble that given by the revisers any more than the ancients. The Septuagint and the Vulgate construct alike, but Leeser has another view.
The separation with which the chapter opens is in no way from evil, but rather from others to indulge his own desire and pleasure. Such selfishness enrages him against all wisdom.
This is confirmed by the verse that follows. For such a one is pronounced to be a fool, and to have no delight in understanding, but only that his heart may reveal itself. How far he is from knowing himself! His heart is the chief seat of his folly.
But there is worse among men than vanity; for it is truly said, "when the wicked cometh, there cometh also contempt, and with ignominy reproach." God despiseth not any; but what care they for God? They have only contempt for their betters, and ensure it for themselves, or, as it is here said, "with ignominy reproach."
The contrast appears next. "The words of a man's mouth are deep waters, the fountain of wisdom a gushing brook." Here it is a man who has looked up and learned wisdom, instead of trusting himself. His words are therefore deep waters; and they are fresh as well as deep, even as a gushing brook. For Jehovah is the living God, and man under the power of death.
But there are dangers too even for the wise. It is not good to favor the person of the wicked, and just as bad to subvert the righteous in judgment. Strict integrity is a jewel. Prejudice must not be allowed, any more than partiality. Our sufficiency is of God.
There is another way in which folly displays itself. "A fool's lips enter into (or, with) contention, and his mouth calleth for blows." The way of peace is unknown. His words are for war, and his mouth therefore calleth for blows, even if he escape sometimes. But it is all the worse for him in the long run; for "a fool's mouth is his destruction, and his lips the snare of his soul." Had he profited by rebuke and other humiliations, it might have been otherwise (vss. 6-7).
Quite as evil as the foolish talker is the tale-bearer, of whom we next hear. "The words of a tale-bearer [are] as wounds, and they go down to the chambers of the belly." Even if they were strictly true, which is rarely the case, they are in every respect injurious, and fall under the censure of evil speaking. They wholly lack a moral object or a loving way. It is at best gossip, and for the most part the mere indulgence of talking of things which right feeling would rather conceal. The issue is to inflict wounds which pierce very deep, and where they are least curable.
Then we have a maxim of great force in verse 9. The slothful also, or slack in his work, is near akin to the destroyer, or great waster. Both arrive at the same end of misery, one by idling, the other by careless prodigality. See the blessed contrast of Christ as Mark traces His service; "and straightway," "and immediately," "and forthwith."
What a resource in such dangers, and in all others, is the name of Jehovah! A strong tower truly, whither the righteous betakes himself and is secure (v. 10). For the enemy is still in power, and those who return to God need protection.
How poor in comparison is the rich man's wealth (v. 11)! He thinks it a strong city, and a high wall in his own conceit. But it will fail him utterly when his need is extreme.
So when the heart of man is haughty, destruction is nigh; whereas humility is the pathway to honor that lasts (v. 12). Here Christ is the blessed Exemplar. For He. as high as the Highest, took the lowly place of bondman to obey, and having gone down so low that none could follow to the utmost, is now indeed exalted. The Christian is called to follow; and on none did the Lord lay it more than on the apostles who by grace were faithful.
The weakness and need, the dangers and difficulties, as well as the helps, of man are here remarkably set out (vv. 13-24).
Haste or vanity leads men to confide in themselves and to slight what others have to say. Thus it is that they get the discredit of folly and shame to their surprise and pain.
When one is enabled to bear up courageously in conscious integrity, it is all well; but when the spirit is. broken, despair is apt to ensue, and all is over, while that lasts.
Everyone can see that those who lack intelligence ought to get knowledge, and that the unwise should seek it. But in truth the reverse is the fact as here. The intelligent have it at heart to get knowledge, as the wise do seek it. So the Lord assured when here: Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. Who seeks of God in vain for our real good?
But now we hear of the way of a man with men, and without God, as we heard in the chapter before. Gifts go far with most, and make way for the least honorable before great men, who are often, like those who court them, neither good nor wise. There are marked exceptions.
The next apothegm is a sort of converse to verse 13. It is a man first in his own cause; what can be plainer than its justification? But his neighbor comes and searches him; and how does the matter look then?
There are cases however where both sides have so much to plead, that a fair decision is beyond men, who if stiff give themselves over to contention, as there are those outside the dispute whose sad interest it is to keep it up. The Israelite had the resource of the lot, no matter how mighty the contenders might be; for Jehovah did not fail to decide thereby. But the Christian is entitled to look to his Father in Christ's name, and never without an answer of grace if he wait on Him. How great the value of the written Word and of free intercourse with Him who is higher than the highest!
But there is as there ever was a great difficulty here; and it might seem strange, if we were not too familiar with the fact, that it is with a brother offended. How unapproachable and unreasonable! Yes, he is harder to win than a strong city; and such contentions are as the bars of a castle. What strength is needed to break through!
"The belly" has a bad name in both Old Testament and New; but not always, as John 7:3838He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (John 7:38) conclusively proves. And so it may be here, where it seems employed in its twofold application for the innermost affections, good or evil. The mouth indicates the heart, as the Lord tells us both of the good man and of the wicked. Out of its abundance the mouth speaks. Here it is the other side-a man's inwards satisfied with the fruit of his mouth, with the increase of his lips. How weighty then our every word if we bring in God! But if this satisfies man, the child of God can be satisfied with nothing less than God's Word and grace. Hence too are life and death said to be in the power of the tongue, and so the issues in both good and evil. All Scripture declares it; all experience confirms and illustrates it.
Does the finding of good in a wife, in one worthy of that name, join on to this? Certainly no one has such opportunity of intimate knowledge and of giving help. She can avail as none else; and if for God, what a treasure to her husband, who might resent fidelity in another! What a favor from Jehovah!
The poor naturally resort to supplication, the rich as naturally answer roughly. Grace exalts the one, and abases the other, to the happiness of faith, and to the Lord's pleasure who sees and weighs all.
A man who depends on many friends pays for it to his own ruin; but One is become more than a friend, a lover beyond all others, that sticketh closer than a brother. Well we know Him; yet how little, alas!
Chapter 19:1-7. In a general way these maxims of divine wisdom are meant to comfort the upright and considerate poor, apt to be despised by others of less moral worth. They are instructive to all who have the fear of God. and to the Christian especially, who is told to honor all men as such (1 Pet. 2:1717Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. (1 Peter 2:17)). There is nothing akin to the assertion of man's rights and the exclusion of God's, seeking one's own will, advantage, honor, and power.
To walk in integrity is the fruit of divine grace. Faith alone can thus enable anyone in a world of vain show and with a nature corrupt or false, and vain or proud, either way given to self-complacency and open to self-conceit. If ever so poor, how much better is the upright walker than the man however rich that talks crookedly and is a fool (v. 1).
There is no excuse for anyone who hears the Scriptures to be without knowledge, and knowledge of the deepest value, perfectly reliable and accessible. What is to be compared with the written Word of God, even when it was but partially given? To be without that knowledge was not good but evil in an Israelite; how much more in a professing Christian! Without knowledge, one is apt to act precipitately and fall into sin- how often through haste! Man needs to weigh his words and ways (v. 2).
The foolishness of a man exposes him to evil ways; and all the more, because the more foolish, the less is there self-judgment. If one but felt his folly before God, and therefore looked up for wisdom, how surely He would give it without upbraiding; if he trust himself, he perverts his way more and more. What is worse still, his heart frets or rages against Jehovah. His folly grows impious at length even to casting the blame on Him who only is absolutely wise and has never done him harm but good. It is a common case (v. 3).
The covetousness of man betrays itself in the eagerness of men in general to be friends of the wealthy; nor less in the coolness that separates the poor man from his neighbor's interest and care (v. 4). How little is God in their thoughts! Yet withal they may flatter themselves with loving God and man. Let them think of the good Samaritan.
False witness is a heinous sin in Jehovah's eyes, who pledges Himself that it shall not go without punishment, and that the untruthful man shall not escape. A Jew was no doubt more guilty than a heathen if he thus boldly ignored Him who hears every word; and much more inexcusable is the Christian, now that Christ has come, the true and faithful Witness. Israel was called to be the arena of Jehovah's government; but it utterly failed through their forgetting the ground of promise to faith, and resting all on their own obedience of the law. No sinful man, nor indeed any, can stand on such a tenure. For as many as are of law-works are under curse, as it had been so strikingly anticipated in Deuteronomy 27 where the Spirit records the curses on Ebal, and does not notice the blessings on Gerizim, though no doubt proclamation was made historically on the latter as much as on the former. But all men who take this ground of their obedience reap not blessing, but curse. Blessing for a sinful man can come only by faith. And we find men after the law even more heedless of truth than they were before the law, yea, even saints. But in Christianity we have not only the truth, but truthfulness consequently, as never before.
The selfishness of human nature is shown out in verses 6 and 7 "Many court (or, entreat) the favor of a prince; and every man is a friend to him that giveth" (v. 6). It is not all that can get the ear of a prince to curry favor. But a liberal man is as the rule easy to reach and ready to listen. No doubt it is a temptation even to a Christian in distress. But why forget that He whose is the earth and its fullness has His heart ever open to his cry? How comely then it is to be anxious for nothing; to let our gentleness be known to all men, self-assertion to none; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving to make our requests known to God!
What a graphic picture verse 7 presents in following up hateful self-seeking! "All the brothers of the poor hate him; how much more do his friends go far from him! he pursueth with words: they are not." Even the nearest ties of relationship break before the needy one. Still less are friends faithful to him who sinks into poverty. The very sight of such a one is a bore, and a signal to be off. In vain the debtor pursues with his words of appeal. The old friends disappear, and all fails. Such the prodigal found the world, when his profusion left him nothing more to spend; no man gave to him. God is the gracious giver, and the only One changeless and effectual, when every resource is gone, and the sinner bows to Him, though he have nothing but sins. But for him, however ruined, that believes, God has Jesus and with Him freely gives all things, as the day will manifest. It is of importance to realize this by faith now, that we may honor Him in thanksgiving and praise, and in willing service, as it becomes every Christian to do.