Proverbs Ten

Proverbs 10
WE now enter upon the second division of the book, which brings us to the strictly proverbial portion. Hitherto we have been listening to Wisdom’s exhortation to enter the house and avail ourselves of the mass of instruction gathered together for our enlightenment as to suited behavior in all circumstances. From this the siren voice of Folly would turn us aside.
Happy the man—particularly the young man—(for again be it remembered this is the book for the direction and guidance of youth)—who refuses the latter, and, attracted by the former, enters and seeks conscientiously to make his own what is here recorded.
As Scripture itself abounds with illustrious examples of almost every proverb we are to have before us, a reference will generally be given in the notes to some person or circumstance manifesting the truth of the saying in question. By referring to these in connection with the reading of the pages that follow, it is hoped the reader will be impressed as never before both with the fullness and richness of the word of God, and with the remarkable manner in which every part of it is linked up with the book of Proverbs.
1 The proverbs of Solomon.
A wise son maketh a glad father;
But a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.
In these words the key-note is struck, to be again and again referred to throughout the book, and returned to in the final chapter. The son who is characterized by wisdom, causes his father to rejoice as in the case of Solomon himself (1 Chron. 22:1212Only the Lord give thee wisdom and understanding, and give thee charge concerning Israel, that thou mayest keep the law of the Lord thy God. (1 Chronicles 22:12); 2 Chron. 1:7-127In that night did God appear unto Solomon, and said unto him, Ask what I shall give thee. 8And Solomon said unto God, Thou hast showed great mercy unto David my father, and hast made me to reign in his stead. 9Now, O Lord God, let thy promise unto David my father be established: for thou hast made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude. 10Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can judge this thy people, that is so great? 11And God said to Solomon, Because this was in thine heart, and thou hast not asked riches, wealth, or honor, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life; but hast asked wisdom and knowledge for thyself, that thou mayest judge my people, over whom I have made thee king: 12Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honor, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like. (2 Chronicles 1:7‑12)). On the other hand it is the mother who feels most keenly the folly of her child. See Esau in Gen. 26:3434And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite: (Genesis 26:34). 35 and 27:46.
2 Treasures of lawlessness profit nothing:
But righteousness delivereth from death.
God has not abdicated His throne as the moral governor of the universe; hence sowing follows reaping, as surely as night follows day. “As the partridge sitteth on eggs and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days and at his end shall be a fool” (Jer. 17:1111As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool. (Jeremiah 17:11)). On the other hand righteousness, however much one may be called upon to suffer for it in a world like this, “delivereth from death,” when that death, as in the case of the flood and many lesser incidents, is an evidence of God’s judgment. In the book of Esther Haman is the exemplification of the former, and Mordecai of the latter.
3 Jehovah will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish:
But He casteth away the desire of the lawless.
4 He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand:
But the hand of the diligent maketh rich.
Scripture never countenances slothfulness; but commands on the part of the Christian that he be “not remiss in zeal.” This, the disorderly among the Thessalonians had evidently forgotten (2 Thess. 3:7-127For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; 8Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: 9Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. 10For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. 11For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. 12Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. (2 Thessalonians 3:7‑12)), and the apostle has to write urging them “that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.” Faith and laziness do not mingle. What is sometimes miscalled faith is really presumption. Diligence is the fit companion of the former, as beautifully set forth in Ruth, the Moabitess, who takes the place of the poor and the stranger among the gleaners in the fields of Boaz, to be exalted in due time Ruth 2 to 4).
5 He that gathereth in summer is a wise son:
But he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame.
The principle abides whether in relation to time or eternity. The hour of opportunity if improved bespeaks wisdom; if neglected tells of present folly and future shame. It is of the utmost importance that one set a proper value on the God-given present; “redeeming the time for the days are evil.” Let the laborer in the harvest-fields of the Lord heed the word here given. Now is the time to gather precious sheaves which will be cause for rejoicing in the day of the soon-coming “harvest-home.” He who sleeps in the present reaping season will suffer shame and loss at the judgment-seat of Christ. What an example of the diligent laborer is to be found in Paul, throughout his life of ceaseless activity and concern for a dying world. Demas was one who, charmed by the love of the present world, went off to sleep and left the service for other hands.. His shame abides to this day (2 Tim. 4:1010For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. (2 Timothy 4:10)).
6 Blessings are upon the head of the just:
But violence covereth the mouth of the lawless.
7 The memory of the just is blessed:
But the name of the lawless shall rot.
Not more different is the esteem in which the righteous and the wicked are held in life than is their memory after death. Of Paul we have just written above. In 2 Tim. 4:1717Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. (2 Timothy 4:17) we find him standing for judgment before Nero, whom he there denominates “the lion,” from whose mouth he was at that time delivered. Surely, despite his loneliness and his apparently despicable condition, blessings were even then upon the head of Christ’s doughty servant. On the other hand, how truly did violence cover the mouth of his oppressor; leaving him without excuse before the bar of man and of God. Both have long since passed from this scene. Let the centuries witness whose memory has rotted, and whose is still cause for thanksgiving!
8 The wise in heart will receive commandments:
But a prating fool shall fall.
Wisdom, as we have seen, begins with the fear of the Lord. Those so exercised are ready indeed to bow to His word and to receive His commandments. For the Christian, this is the way in which his love for Christ is manifested. The prating word-mouthed fool, who is too wise in his own conceit to require instruction, must learn by coming to grief. In Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar we see the two contrasted. See Daniel 5:18-2318O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honor: 19And for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put down. 20But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him: 21And he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses: they fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven; till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will. 22And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; 23But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified: (Daniel 5:18‑23).
9 He that walketh in integrity, walketh surely:
But he that perverteth his ways shall be known.
To walk in integrity is to walk with God. Whatever misunderstanding there may be at times, the one who so lives shall be shown to have walked surely at last. Men of the world confess that “Honesty is the best policy.” For the man of God, uprightness is not policy, but the delight of his heart; and by it he brings even wicked men to acknowledge that his ways are above reproach, as was manifested in Joseph, after being so sorely tried (Gen. 40 and 41). On the contrary, he whose ways are perverse, though he may cover them for a time, must inevitably be discovered at last. See Ziba’s case (2 Sam. 16:1-4; 19:24-271And when David was a little past the top of the hill, behold, Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth met him, with a couple of asses saddled, and upon them two hundred loaves of bread, and an hundred bunches of raisins, and an hundred of summer fruits, and a bottle of wine. 2And the king said unto Ziba, What meanest thou by these? And Ziba said, The asses be for the king's household to ride on; and the bread and summer fruit for the young men to eat; and the wine, that such as be faint in the wilderness may drink. 3And the king said, And where is thy master's son? And Ziba said unto the king, Behold, he abideth at Jerusalem: for he said, To day shall the house of Israel restore me the kingdom of my father. 4Then said the king to Ziba, Behold, thine are all that pertained unto Mephibosheth. And Ziba said, I humbly beseech thee that I may find grace in thy sight, my lord, O king. (2 Samuel 16:1‑4)
24And Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king, and had neither dressed his feet, nor trimmed his beard, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came again in peace. 25And it came to pass, when he was come to Jerusalem to meet the king, that the king said unto him, Wherefore wentest not thou with me, Mephibosheth? 26And he answered, My lord, O king, my servant deceived me: for thy servant said, I will saddle me an ass, that I may ride thereon, and go to the king; because thy servant is lame. 27And he hath slandered thy servant unto my lord the king; but my lord the king is as an angel of God: do therefore what is good in thine eyes. (2 Samuel 19:24‑27)
).
10 He that winketh with the eye causeth sorrow:
But a prating fool shall fall.
Winking with the eye, from time immemorial, has been construed as giving the lie to what the lips utter. He whose words and intentions are opposed, is a source of grief to others, and shall fall himself. The kiss of Judas was an action of this nature. Note last clause here is as in verse 8.
11 The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life:
But violence covereth the mouth of the lawless.
When the life is ordered in accordance with righteousness, the words of the mouth will be for blessing and refreshment to others. It is by carelessness here that many who attempt to minister the gospel are powerless and barren in their service. The testimony of the lips is not backed up by the testimony of the life. Hence, power and usefulness are lacking. Mere “sound words” are not necessarily used in blessing. But if such come from a heart in touch with God, witnessed to by ways that be in Christ, then indeed shall they prove a well of life to the hearers who are truly athirst. Such was the ministry of Samuel in the dark days subsequent to the death of Eli. For last clause see verse 6.
12 Hatred stirreth up strifes:
But love covereth all sins.
The latter part of this verse is quoted in the New Testament. In 1 Peter 4:88And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8), it is written, “and above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” It is not, as some have foolishly supposed, that kindliness and benevolence, on the part of one otherwise guilty before God, will atone for his transgressions, thus covering them in the day of judgment. Other’s faults, not my own, I am called upon to cover. Not by indifference to evil, but by faithfully, in love and grace, showing my brother his sin, and seeking to exercise his conscience in the presence of God, that confession may be made, and thus the sin be covered. Where love is lacking, it is a common practice to play the part of a talebearer, which only tends to add to the evil; for the repeating of sin is defiling, and often leads to lifelong unhappiness and misunderstandings. In Doeg the Edomite we have a sample of the hatred that stirreth up strife; in Nathan’s dealing with David, a lovely exemplification of the love that covereth (1 Sam. 22:9-199Then answered Doeg the Edomite, which was set over the servants of Saul, and said, I saw the son of Jesse coming to Nob, to Ahimelech the son of Ahitub. 10And he inquired of the Lord for him, and gave him victuals, and gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine. 11Then the king sent to call Ahimelech the priest, the son of Ahitub, and all his father's house, the priests that were in Nob: and they came all of them to the king. 12And Saul said, Hear now, thou son of Ahitub. And he answered, Here I am, my lord. 13And Saul said unto him, Why have ye conspired against me, thou and the son of Jesse, in that thou hast given him bread, and a sword, and hast inquired of God for him, that he should rise against me, to lie in wait, as at this day? 14Then Ahimelech answered the king, and said, And who is so faithful among all thy servants as David, which is the king's son in law, and goeth at thy bidding, and is honorable in thine house? 15Did I then begin to inquire of God for him? be it far from me: let not the king impute any thing unto his servant, nor to all the house of my father: for thy servant knew nothing of all this, less or more. 16And the king said, Thou shalt surely die, Ahimelech, thou, and all thy father's house. 17And the king said unto the footmen that stood about him, Turn, and slay the priests of the Lord; because their hand also is with David, and because they knew when he fled, and did not show it to me. But the servants of the king would not put forth their hand to fall upon the priests of the Lord. 18And the king said to Doeg, Turn thou, and fall upon the priests. And Doeg the Edomite turned, and he fell upon the priests, and slew on that day fourscore and five persons that did wear a linen ephod. 19And Nob, the city of the priests, smote he with the edge of the sword, both men and women, children and sucklings, and oxen, and asses, and sheep, with the edge of the sword. (1 Samuel 22:9‑19); 2 Sam. 12:1-141And the Lord sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. 2The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: 3But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. 4And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man's lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him. 5And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: 6And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. 7And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; 8And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. 9Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. 10Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. 11Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbor, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. 12For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun. 13And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. 14Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die. (2 Samuel 12:1‑14)). See the notes on chapter 11:13.
13 In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found:
But a rod is for the back of him that is void of heart.
None have, perhaps, exhibited in their own decisions, the contrast of this verse so markedly as Solomon himself and his son Rehoboam. The former, having been under exercise before God, had been given a wise and understanding heart (1 Kings 3:5-285In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee. 6And Solomon said, Thou hast showed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. 7And now, O Lord my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. 8And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. 9Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? 10And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. 11And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; 12Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. 13And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honor: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days. 14And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days. 15And Solomon awoke; and, behold, it was a dream. And he came to Jerusalem, and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered up burnt offerings, and offered peace offerings, and made a feast to all his servants. 16Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king, and stood before him. 17And the one woman said, O my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house; and I was delivered of a child with her in the house. 18And it came to pass the third day after that I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also: and we were together; there was no stranger with us in the house, save we two in the house. 19And this woman's child died in the night; because she overlaid it. 20And she arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while thine handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom. 21And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold, it was dead: but when I had considered it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, which I did bear. 22And the other woman said, Nay; but the living is my son, and the dead is thy son. And this said, No; but the dead is thy son, and the living is my son. Thus they spake before the king. 23Then said the king, The one saith, This is my son that liveth, and thy son is the dead: and the other saith, Nay; but thy son is the dead, and my son is the living. 24And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king. 25And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other. 26Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it. 27Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof. 28And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment. (1 Kings 3:5‑28)). The latter trusted his own wisdom and the counsel of the companions of his youth, and found a rod for his back in consequence (1 Kings 12:8-198But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him: 9And he said unto them, What counsel give ye that we may answer this people, who have spoken to me, saying, Make the yoke which thy father did put upon us lighter? 10And the young men that were grown up with him spake unto him, saying, Thus shalt thou speak unto this people that spake unto thee, saying, Thy father made our yoke heavy, but make thou it lighter unto us; thus shalt thou say unto them, My little finger shall be thicker than my father's loins. 11And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions. 12So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king had appointed, saying, Come to me again the third day. 13And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men's counsel that they gave him; 14And spake to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions. 15Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was from the Lord, that he might perform his saying, which the Lord spake by Ahijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam the son of Nebat. 16So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David. So Israel departed unto their tents. 17But as for the children of Israel which dwelt in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them. 18Then king Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was over the tribute; and all Israel stoned him with stones, that he died. Therefore king Rehoboam made speed to get him up to his chariot, to flee to Jerusalem. 19So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day. (1 Kings 12:8‑19)).
14 Wise men lay up knowledge:
But the mouth of the foolish is near destruction.
None perceive their own limitations so clearly as the truly wise. Humility and a willingness to learn from all who can instruct them is characteristic of such. The conceit of the foolish knows no bounds. With their own mouths they proclaim it in the ears of all men of sound judgment. Their prating but invites destruction. Timothy, “from a child” followed the ways of the first-mentioned (2 Tim. 3:14, 1514But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; 15And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14‑15)). The magician Elymas is an illustration of the last-described (Acts 13:6-116And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar-jesus: 7Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God. 8But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. 9Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, 10And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? 11And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand. (Acts 13:6‑11)).
15 The rich man’s wealth is his strong city:
The destruction of the poor is their poverty.
For Time alone, and in an era of peace, does this apply; for “riches profit not in the day of wrath”: neither does temporal poverty interfere with future glory. See Dives and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-3119There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 25But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. 26And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. 27Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: 28For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. 31And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. (Luke 16:19‑31)).
16 The labor of the righteous tendeth to life:
The produce of the lawless is sin.
It is an Old Testament way of stating the truth of Rom. 8:66For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (Romans 8:6), “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” The righteous man is the spiritual man. His labor is in accordance with the mind of God, and consequently tends to life. All that the wicked produces is but sin in the sight of infinite holiness; because the sinner is polluted, like a poisoned well, which may give forth water cold and sparkling, but only to be dreaded after all. The first two offerers, Cain and Abel, exemplify the truth here stated (Gen. 4:5-85But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. 6And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? 7If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. 8And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. (Genesis 4:5‑8)).
17 He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction:
But he that refuseth reproof erreth.
It is only when man learns to mistrust himself and to rely alone upon the unerring word of God, unfolded by the Holy Spirit, that his feet walk in the way of life. It is not a question of eternal life or final salvation. But the way of life is the divinely-marked-out path for all the children of God. Such cannot afford to refuse reproof. It is the greatest kindness another saint can show me, to direct my attention to any portion of the truth of God which I am failing to practically own. Let me gladly, then, receive correction, that thus I may be preserved from dishonoring the One who has redeemed me to Himself. Saul refused reproof and lost his kingdom (1 Sam. 15:2323For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king. (1 Samuel 15:23)). In David, whatever his failures at times, we see one who was characterized by keeping instruction, and who therefore trod the path of life.
18 He that hideth hatred with lying lips,
And he that uttereth a slander is a fool.
Hypocrisy and tale-bearing are alike detestable. To dissimulate—feigning love and friendship while the fire of hatred burns in the heart—and to spread evil stories, are most reprehensible.
It is a matter much to be deplored, that there is by no means the concern about evil-speaking among the saints of the Lord that there should be. In His Word He has over and over again expressed His abhorrence of it in unmistakable terms. In the law it is written, “Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people” (Lev. 19:1616Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbor: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:16)). The tales might be true; but that could not excuse the bearer of them. If a brother or sister had sinned, there was a far different way to deal with the matter than in spreading the story of his or her shame through the camp of Israel. The following verse delineates the godly way to deal with such a case: “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him” (ver. 17).
This is most searching and solemn. If untrue, I am bearing false witness if I repeat evil. If true, I am defiling others and injuring the soul of the wrong-doer, who might be delivered from his error if I went to him in the spirit of meekness. It is an “ungodly man” (who) “diggeth up evil.” A man of God will seek to cover it, by leading the sinning one to repentance and self-judgment.
19 In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin:
But he that refraineth his lips is wise.
It is remarkable how large a portion of the Scriptures God has seen fit to devote to the subject of His creatures’ words. Readiness of speech is seldom to be found where sin does not creep in. To refrain the lips is often difficult, but it is the part of true wisdom. In the epistle of James an entire chapter is devoted to “the tongue,” that small but most unruly member. The man of God will weigh his words, remembering that for every idle one he must give an account, for it is written, “By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” (See Eccl. 5:1-71Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. 2Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few. 3For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice is known by multitude of words. 4When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. 5Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. 6Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands? 7For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God. (Ecclesiastes 5:1‑7).)
20 The tongue of the just is as choice silver:
The heart of the lawless is of little worth.
Tongue and heart seem to be used here almost synonymously, for the one is controlled by the other. The tongue of the just bespeaks a heart in subjection to God. Therefore the words uttered are of value. The heart of the lawless is made known by his idle and perverse conversation. It was so in the case of Simon Magus, while his reprover displayed the opposite (Acts 8:2323For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. (Acts 8:23)).
21 The lips of the righteous feed many:
But fools die for want of heart.
It is not only that the righteous man’s conversation is without foolishness and slanderous statements, but it is positively for profit. When he speaks, it is for edification: others are blessed: his lips feed many. Not so with the fool. His speech is worthless, and he lacks the heart to learn from those who could instruct. Samuel and Saul again come to mind. The words of the former were a means of blessing to thousands, but the unhappy man he had anointed failed himself to profit thereby. See also verses 31, 32.
22 The blessing of Jehovah, it maketh rich,
And He addeth no sorrow with it.
How unspeakable the folly that would lead one to turn from “pleasures forevermore” and riches imperishable, untainted by sorrow, for the vain baubles offered by the world and Satan, which leave only pain and disappointment at last! The blessing of the Lord is found in the pathway of obedience. Even Christians often miss it by laxity, and indifference to moral and doctrinal evil. Such can only blame themselves when, walking by the light of their own fire and the sparks that they have kindled, they lie down in sorrow.
23 It is as sport to a fool to do mischief:
But a man of understanding hath wisdom.
What the wise man would shrink from with horror, the fool will practice, not only with complacency, but with positive fiendish delight. The man of understanding, whose heart and mind are controlled by the fear of the Lord, will behave himself wisely in a perfect way. Such a fool was Balaam; and Phinehas was a man of understanding, whose wisdom stayed the vengeance of the Lord (Num. 31:16; 25:6-1316Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord. (Numbers 31:16)
6And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 7And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand; 8And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel. 9And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand. 10And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 11Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy. 12Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: 13And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel. (Numbers 25:6‑13)
).
24 The fear of the lawless, it shall come upon him:
But the desire of the righteous shall be granted.
25 As the whirlwind passeth, so is the lawless no more:
But the righteous is an everlasting foundation.
The two proverbs are really one, contrasting the expectation and end of the righteous and the wicked. The lawless, however bold his appearance, has ever a gnawing fear at his heart of impending calamity. He may well dread the future. for it has judgment unsparing for his portion. The desire of the righteous will as surely be granted—even blessing forevermore.
Soon, as the whirlwind passeth, will the wicked pass away and be no more, so far as this world is concerned. It is no question of extinction of being. He will be gone from earth into a dark and grief-filled eternity. An everlasting foundation is that of the righteous—even God’s imperishable truth. Daniel and his accusers illustrate the two sides (Dan. 6:4-244Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him. 5Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God. 6Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever. 7All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. 8Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. 9Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree. 10Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. 11Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God. 12Then they came near, and spake before the king concerning the king's decree; Hast thou not signed a decree, that every man that shall ask a petition of any God or man within thirty days, save of thee, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions? The king answered and said, The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. 13Then answered they and said before the king, That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day. 14Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him: and he labored till the going down of the sun to deliver him. 15Then these men assembled unto the king, and said unto the king, Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, That no decree nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed. 16Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee. 17And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel. 18Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of music brought before him: and his sleep went from him. 19Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions. 20And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? 21Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. 22My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. 23Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God. 24And the king commanded, and they brought those men which had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions had the mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den. (Daniel 6:4‑24)).
26 As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes,
So is the sluggard to them that send him.
27 The fear of Jehovah prolongeth days:
But the years of the lawless shall be shortened.
28 The hope of the righteous shall be gladness:
But the expectation of the lawless shall perish.
29 The way of Jehovah is strength to the perfect:
But destruction [shall be] to the workers of iniquity.
30 The righteous shall never be removed:
But the lawless shall not inhabit the earth.
Again, in all four verses, though each a distinct proverb, we have the righteous and the lawless in contrast, both as to the present and the future. Not greater will be the difference between the two classes in eternity than in time. Now, the fear of the Lord prolongs life; for the indiscretions and iniquities of the lawless break their physical constitutions and shorten their days. In eternity, gladness shall be the fulfilled hope of the righteous, while the vain hope of the wicked shall perish, and his portion be endless judgment.
Strength is found in the way of Jehovah; destruction and woe shall be to those who tread the paths of sin. In the age to come, the portion of the righteous shall abide; he shall never be removed: but the evil-doer will have no inheritance in the glorious kingdom then to be established. For both worlds the lawless are not gainers, but losers, by their willful rejection of the Word of Life; while “godliness is profitable in all things, both in the life that now is, and that which is to come.” A host of testimony-bearers on each side come up to confirm the solemn truths here enumerated so pithily. Cain and Abel; Noah and the antediluvian world; Abraham and his idolatrous kin; Isaac and Ishmael; Jacob and Esau; Joseph and his accusers; all in the first book of the Bible, with a vast number throughout its remaining books, witness the great contrast which the testimony of experience in all ages has but confirmed.
With two additional proverbs on the tongue the chapter closes. They are intimately connected, and should be considered together:
31 The mouth of the righteous bringeth forth wisdom: But the froward tongue shall be cut out.
32 The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable:
But the mouth of the lawless speaketh frowardness.
The way and end of the two classes we have noticed. Again we are instructed as to the difference in their speech, which but maketh bare the state of the heart. Wisdom and acceptable words proceed from the lips of the righteous, like limpid streams from a pure fountain. Frowardness, like a filthy torrent, is poured forth by the tongue of the wicked, soon to be silenced in judgment. Jezebel is a solemn beacon, declaring the truth of this word in regard to the wicked. Elijah, whom she hated, may be cited as an instance on the other side.