Proverbs 25:21-28

Proverbs 25:21‑28  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 7
There is next a miscellaneous group of weighty counsel or observation.
“If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink;
For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head; and Jehovah shall reward thee.
The north wind bringeth forth rain; and an angry countenance a secret (or, backbiting) tongue.
Better to dwell in a corner of the house-top, than with a contentious woman and a house in common.
Cold waters to a thirsty soul—so good news from a far country.
A troubled fountain and a defiled well [is] a righteous one that tottereth before the wicked.
To eat much honey [is] not good; and to search weighty things [is] a weight.
He that [hath] no rule over his own spirit [is] a city broken down, without wall” (vers. 21-28).
The first of these maxims must have startled an Israelite ordinarily; it rises above nature and law which deals with the evil-feeling and ways as they deserve. Here it is “the kindness of God,” and His call to act on a goodness which is seen in Him and can only flow from Him. We see it literally acted and on a large scale when divine power drew a Syrian host, sent to apprehend Elisha, blindfold into the capital city of Israel, and the king asked the prophet, Shall I smite? shall I smite? But the mouthpiece of God said, No: “set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.” No wonder that the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel. What was strange then, and always must have been to man's mind, is now so congenial to the Christian that the apostle was led to cite the words as a rule for any and every day. “Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing, thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head” (Rom. 12:2020Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. (Romans 12:20)). It was God in Christ, it is God in the Christian. Is it obsolete in Christendom? May it not be in Christians? It is too precious to lose.
Verse 23 has elicited very different senses from translators; as we may see in the text and the margin of the A.V. Even here the converse of the last clause seems preferable; that as the north wind brings forth rain, so an angry countenance provokes a secret or backbiting tongue. If this be right, it is a call to gentleness even in the look, and a warning of the consequence of failure in that respect.
The next verse expresses the wretchedness of having to share a house with a contentious woman, which made a corner of the house-top an agreeable escape from such a din.
On the other hand good news from a far country is no less refreshing than cold waters to a thirsty soul. One looks for pleasant sounds at home, instead of noisy strife or murmurs. But if one receives good news from a far land, it is all the sweeter.
There is a report or a fact however that is calculated to give pain and to stumble—when a righteous one totters before the wicked. Thence one hoped for a fountain springing up, and a clear river flowing out perhaps. How sad that one can find only a troubled fountain, and a defiled well!
To eat too freely of what is sweet to the palate is not good, as we may have proved to our cost through lack of subjection to the word; but there is the opposite danger of excessive search after weighty things, which is a weight instead of a pleasure or profit. The Hebrew word translated glory, as is well known, means also weight. As the retention of the sense “glory” does not yield any result of a satisfactory nature, and requires even a negative strangely forced to give any good meaning, the other rendering is here adopted which seems to supply easily what seemingly is wanted.
There remains the last warning of wisdom, to beware of an ungoverned spirit. He that has no control over his own spirit exposes himself to all sorts of surprise, inroad, and ruin. Is he not like a city broken down and without a wall?