Proverbs Twenty-One

Proverbs 21
THE great truth that the prophet Daniel sought to bring to bear upon the conscience of the impious Belshazzar on the last night of his reign at Babylon is that which the opening verse presents, in a slightly different way. Daniel endeavored to impress the Chaldean king with his duty to acknowledge “the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways;” but he would not be humbled. Here we are told that
1 The king’s heart is in the hand of Jehovah, as the rivulets of water:
He turneth it whithersoever He will.
See Proverbs 20:2424Man's goings are of the Lord; how can a man then understand his own way? (Proverbs 20:24). There is no monarch so great that he can act in independence of God. Whether he owns it or not, Jehovah is controlling him as He controls the flow of the water-brooks. He who “hath His way in the whirlwind and the storm” can make the wrath of man to praise Him, and restrain the remainder thereof. As already noted,1 the book of Esther is the fitting illustration of this, especially Esther 6:1-101On that night could not the king sleep, and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king. 2And it was found written, that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's chamberlains, the keepers of the door, who sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus. 3And the king said, What honor and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this? Then said the king's servants that ministered unto him, There is nothing done for him. 4And the king said, Who is in the court? Now Haman was come into the outward court of the king's house, to speak unto the king to hang Mordecai on the gallows that he had prepared for him. 5And the king's servants said unto him, Behold, Haman standeth in the court. And the king said, Let him come in. 6So Haman came in. And the king said unto him, What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honor? Now Haman thought in his heart, To whom would the king delight to do honor more than to myself? 7And Haman answered the king, For the man whom the king delighteth to honor, 8Let the royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head: 9And let this apparel and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king's most noble princes, that they may array the man withal whom the king delighteth to honor, and bring him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honor. 10Then the king said to Haman, Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse, as thou hast said, and do even so to Mordecai the Jew, that sitteth at the king's gate: let nothing fail of all that thou hast spoken. (Esther 6:1‑10). Jehovah’s word to Cyrus, written long ere that ruler was born, is another striking case in point. See Isaiah 45:1-71Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; 2I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: 3And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel. 4For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me. 5I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: 6That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the Lord, and there is none else. 7I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things. (Isaiah 45:1‑7).
2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes:
But Jehovah pondereth the hearts.
See Proverbs 20:66Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find? (Proverbs 20:6). Self-righteousness is perhaps the most human of all sins. Men will excuse and explain away in themselves what in others would be censured with severity. The Lord beholds the heart, and takes notice of the pride gnawing like a worm at the root. Not he who commends himself, but he who is commended by God, is approved. See Paul (1 Cor. 4:44For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. (1 Corinthians 4:4)).
3 To do righteousness and judgment
Is more acceptable to Jehovah than sacrifice.
It was a common thing for men to forget that sacrifices and offerings were not pleasing to the Lord when uprightness was lacking. He ever placed righteousness and equity above ceremonial observances, as, we may rest assured, He does today. The Lord witheringly rebuked the Pharisees, when He was on earth, for their attention to ritualistic details while justice and integrity were lacking. “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice” was His word. Isaiah sets forth the same truth, of the supreme importance of the execution of righteousness, when contrasting the ceremonial fasts with what Jehovah really delighted in (Isa. 58:5-145Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? 6Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? 7Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? 8Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward. 9Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; 10And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: 11And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. 12And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. 13If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: 14Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. (Isaiah 58:5‑14)). See Samuel’s word to Saul (1 Sam. 15:2222And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22)).
4 A high look, and a proud heart,
And the tillage of the lawless, is sin.
As long as man persists in rebellion against God, he can do nothing that will be acceptable in His sight. Not only are lofty eyes and a proud heart evil, but even what might otherwise be meritorious is sin while man refuses to bow in repentance before Him.
Let a province rebel against its lawful ruler, the inhabitants may carry on many useful occupations and labor diligently in them, but all are tainted with sedition, so cannot be considered profitable or right. When they ground their arms at the feet of the king, and own his sway, these same occupations become pleasing and proper in his sight. So it is with man away from God, and with those who turn to Him in contrition of heart. See the Holy Spirit’s estimate of Israel while God’s Anointed is rejected (Rom. 10:1-31Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. 2For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 3For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. (Romans 10:1‑3)).
5 The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness;
But of every one that is hasty only to want.
6 The getting of treasures by a lying tongue
Is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death.
7 The robbery of the lawless shall destroy them;
Because they refuse to do judgment.
Riches accumulated by means of honest, wholesome toil give pleasure and a measure of satisfaction to their possessor. But the hasty gathering of wealth by lying and deceit, often coupled with downright robbery, will bring sorrow and shame in their wake. One may possess boundless stores of gold and silver, and yet be as needy as the Arab lost in the desert, who, when almost dead for want of food, found in the track of a caravan a package, which he opened with trembling eagerness, hoping it might be dates. He dropped it in dire disappointment, as he groaned, “It’s only pearls!” Those pearls were worth thousands of dollars, but they could not feed a starving man. So with wealth illegally gotten. It cannot satisfy. He who possesses it will be in deepest and most abject poverty after all. Life will be a weary round of vexation and disappointment, and he will be left to groan at last, “All is vanity, and pursuit of the wind.” See Ecclesiastes 5:10-1710He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity. 11When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes? 12The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep. 13There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt. 14But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand. 15As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labor, which he may carry away in his hand. 16And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath labored for the wind? 17All his days also he eateth in darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness. (Ecclesiastes 5:10‑17).
8 The way of a guilty man is very crooked:
But as for the pure, his work is right.
Like the trail of the serpent are the ways of a guilty man. It is invariably a sign that something is radically wrong at bottom when a person’s path is crooked, and he has to be continually excusing and explaining. He who walks with God will be above reproach; for he will shun every form of evil. The work of the pure is right. His life is like an open book, which explains itself, and shuts the lips even of enemies. Daniel was of this character; so that when the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against him concerning the kingdom, “they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him” (Dan. 6:44Then 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. (Daniel 6:4)). Ahab’s history is a solemn illustration of the crooked ways of a guilty man (1 Kings 16-22).
9 It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop,
Than with a brawling woman in a wide house.
See note on Proverbs 19:1313A foolish son is the calamity of his father: and the contentions of a wife are a continual dropping. (Proverbs 19:13). Happy must the family be where the lovely order of God’s word is recognized as to the various relationships of each one. If the husband render unto the wife due benevolence, and the wife be adorned by the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, the children are likely to be in godly subjection, and the home a sweet foretaste of that eternal one for which we wait. But where a brawling woman seeks to rule, and will not be content unless she has things her own way, it is most unpleasant. A quiet corner on the housetop is better far than to dwell in a palatial residence with such company. Both Job and David found it so at times (Job 2:9,109Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. 10But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips. (Job 2:9‑10); 2 Sam. 6:20-2320Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself to day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself! 21And David said unto Michal, It was before the Lord, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel: therefore will I play before the Lord. 22And I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight: and of the maidservants which thou hast spoken of, of them shall I be had in honor. 23Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death. (2 Samuel 6:20‑23)). See verse 19, below.
10 The soul of the lawless desireth evil:
His neighbor findeth no favor in his eyes.
11 When the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise:
And when the wise is instructed, he receiveth knowledge.
When he who resists the truth is permitted to go unrebuked, it strengthens his position in the eyes of the ignorant. For this reason, we are told, “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear” (1 Tim. 5:2020Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. (1 Timothy 5:20)). They are likely keenly to feel and bitterly to resent the correction; but this only emphasizes their need of it; for a wise man would profit by instruction, and receive knowledge. See the result of Paul’s rebuke to Elymas the sorcerer, as contrasted with his withstanding of Peter and Barnabas (Acts 13:8-128But 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. 12Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord. (Acts 13:8‑12); Gal. 2:11-1611But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 12For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. 13And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. 14But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? 15We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (Galatians 2:11‑16)).
12 The righteous man wisely considereth the house of the lawless:
He overthroweth the lawless because of their evil.
It is the final triumph of the righteous over the lawless that is referred to, I judge. The just man will not be unduly depressed, and certainly not anxious, when he sees the present prosperity of the wicked. He knows their joys are empty indeed, and their days of boasting few at the best. Soon he shall tread them down; for so has God ordained it. The verse might be easier understood by a Jew than a Christian; but in either case it abides true. Iniquity cannot flourish long. The just shall overthrow the house of those given to evil. Even a Jehu can thus be an instrument in God’s hand (2 Kings 9).
13 Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor,
He also shall cry himself, but shall not be answered.
In Proverbs 19:1717He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again. (Proverbs 19:17) we had a positive statement regarding the Lord’s assurance that he who had pity on the poor should be richly repaid. The negative is equally true. He who heeds not the bitter cry of the needy shall in due time cry himself, and be unheard. The destitute and afflicted have a faithful Friend in the God who created them. His concern is very real, and He takes note of all done for or against them. Especially is this so when they are of the household of faith. See the pre-millennial judgment of the nations of the earth, as pictured by our Lord Himself in Matthew 25:31-4631When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 41Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (Matthew 25:31‑46).
14 A gift in secret pacifieth anger:
And a reward in the bosom, strong wrath.
Nothing so readily vanquishes hatred and wrath as doing good to one who cherishes ill-will, providing it be done quietly and unpretentiously, so that others are not made aware of it. For there is danger that well-meant kindnesses, done openly in the sight of all, may be mistaken for unreal acting, designed to deceive onlookers. But what passes between two parties in private cannot be so construed, if mention be not made of it afterward. It was thus that Jacob sought to turn aside the assumed wrath of Joseph (Gen. 43:11-1411And their father Israel said unto them, If it must be so now, do this; take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds: 12And take double money in your hand; and the money that was brought again in the mouth of your sacks, carry it again in your hand; peradventure it was an oversight: 13Take also your brother, and arise, go again unto the man: 14And God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother, and Benjamin. If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved. (Genesis 43:11‑14)).
15 It is joy to the just to do what is right:
But it is ruin to the workers of iniquity.
16 The man that wandereth out of the way of under, standing
Shall abide in the assembly of the dead.
When a man is himself righteous, he delights in righteousness; whereas, in the mind of the unjust, moral rectitude seems to be the certain road to ruin. Take a business man who has learned to order his ways in public and private in integrity and honesty—to depart from principles such as these, would be, in his eyes, painful, and cause for grief and sorrow. But with too many it is accepted as an axiom that one cannot prosper in a business way and maintain the right. To attempt to do so seems to them to foreshadow certain and speedy failure. The young man launching out in life is very apt to be leavened with this unholy and utterly false idea; whereas the experience of multitudes has but confirmed the testimony of Scripture that the only true and lasting success results from righteous dealing.
He who wanders away from the paths of sound wisdom will remain in the congregation of the dead. “She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth” (1 Tim. 5:66But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth. (1 Timothy 5:6)). That which is really life is only enjoyed by the upright who set the Lord always before them. Contrast Judas (Acts 1:1818Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. (Acts 1:18)).
17 He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man:
He that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich.
The spendthrift and the self-indulgent are not in the way to future wealth and comfort. It is the frugal and self-denying who, by present carefulness, pave the way to easier circumstances in years to come. The young man who spends his time in folly, seeking dubious pleasures with unwise companions, is laying up misery and want for his afterlife. He who pampers his appetite with costly dainties in youth, is likely to be brought to coarse fare in old age; while those who were wise enough to forego present indulgences, which would only have been baneful in their early days, will be in a position later on rationally to enjoy what, by dint of labor and carefulness, they have been enabled to lay by. The intemperate lover of folly and pleasure is likely soon to reach the depths to which sank the prodigal of Luke 15.
18 The lawless shall be a ransom for the righteous,
And the treacherous for the upright.
This is intrinsic justice. But when grace was being made known in Christ Jesus, the Righteous became a ransom for the lawless, and the Upright for the treacherous! Justice demands the punishment of the guilty, in order that the guiltless may be delivered; but love gave the Guiltless to die that the guilty might be justified. An illustration of the proverb is seen in the siege and deliverance of Abel of Beth-maachah (2 Sam. 20:14-2214And he went through all the tribes of Israel unto Abel, and to Beth-maachah, and all the Berites: and they were gathered together, and went also after him. 15And they came and besieged him in Abel of Beth-maachah, and they cast up a bank against the city, and it stood in the trench: and all the people that were with Joab battered the wall, to throw it down. 16Then cried a wise woman out of the city, Hear, hear; say, I pray you, unto Joab, Come near hither, that I may speak with thee. 17And when he was come near unto her, the woman said, Art thou Joab? And he answered, I am he. Then she said unto him, Hear the words of thine handmaid. And he answered, I do hear. 18Then she spake, saying, They were wont to speak in old time, saying, They shall surely ask counsel at Abel: and so they ended the matter. 19I am one of them that are peaceable and faithful in Israel: thou seekest to destroy a city and a mother in Israel: why wilt thou swallow up the inheritance of the Lord? 20And Joab answered and said, Far be it, far be it from me, that I should swallow up or destroy. 21The matter is not so: but a man of mount Ephraim, Sheba the son of Bichri by name, hath lifted up his hand against the king, even against David: deliver him only, and I will depart from the city. And the woman said unto Joab, Behold, his head shall be thrown to thee over the wall. 22Then the woman went unto all the people in her wisdom. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri, and cast it out to Joab. And he blew a trumpet, and they retired from the city, every man to his tent. And Joab returned to Jerusalem unto the king. (2 Samuel 20:14‑22)).
19 It is better to dwell in a desert land
Than with a contentious and an angry woman.
See verse 9 above. No creature is more lovely than a woman who exhibits the precious graces of the Spirit of God. Even natural graces adorn and beautify her beyond all that the foolish fripperies and vanities of her oft-times artificial life can do. But a woman bereft of thoughtfulness and kindliness seems almost to be a misnomer. A contentious and angry woman is beyond all words disagreeable, and can by her tongue and her wretched ways produce untold misery. A tent in a wilderness alone, is to be preferred to a palace in her company. Athaliah was evidently of this unhappy class, who, violent and treacherous, would stop at nothing to accomplish her unholy ends (2 Kings 11). See chapter 27:15, 16.
20 There is desirable treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise;
But a foolish man swalloweth it up.
See verse 17 above. The wise man does not live for the present but prudently considers the coming years when strength will fail, and he will be unable to labor as in his youth and prime. Therefore when his days of rest from toil come, he has costly store laid by for the sustenance of those dependent still upon him.
The foolish thinks only of the passing moment and spends with a lavish hand; but shall come to want at last. Consider Paul’s word as to parents providing for their children (2 Cor. 12:1414Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. (2 Corinthians 12:14)).
21 He that followeth after righteousness and loving-kindness,
Findeth life, righteousness and honor.
To steadily pursue righteousness and loving-kindness, exemplifying both in the walk and ways, this is the sure road to what all men desire—life and honor. They are linked together by uprightness. The empty glory of this world, the plaudits of the carnally-minded, are worth little after all. But to be honored by God, and by those who love Him—this abides forever. He delights to bestow His blessing upon those who esteem His Word and yield obedience to His truth. For the truth was not given to be a source of intellectual enjoyment alone, though it is that; but that it might be manifested in the life, as it was to the full in our Lord Jesus Christ. Coupled with moral rectitude He would have that gentle lovingkindness which commends the truth to those who might, by severity on the part of its adherents, be driven therefrom. When grace and truth thus together control the being, life, righteousness, and honor must be the happy result. See Asa, king of Judah, and note how he ever prospered as he sought what was pleasing to God. His only recorded errors but emphasize this (2 Chron. 14-16).
22 A wise man scaleth the city of the mighty,
And casteth down the strength of the confidence thereof.
Brute force and heavy fortifications are of no avail against superior wisdom. It is not might alone that counts, but science and ability. Seemingly impregnable positions have often been taken by the exercise of sagacity and stratagem. Jebus and Babylon were supposedly proof against every assault, but both fell before men of wisdom and sagacity (1 Chron. 11:4-64And David and all Israel went to Jerusalem, which is Jebus; where the Jebusites were, the inhabitants of the land. 5And the inhabitants of Jebus said to David, Thou shalt not come hither. Nevertheless David took the castle of Zion, which is the city of David. 6And David said, Whosoever smiteth the Jebusites first shall be chief and captain. So Joab the son of Zeruiah went first up, and was chief. (1 Chronicles 11:4‑6); Jer. 51:27-3327Set ye up a standard in the land, blow the trumpet among the nations, prepare the nations against her, call together against her the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni, and Ashchenaz; appoint a captain against her; cause the horses to come up as the rough caterpillers. 28Prepare against her the nations with the kings of the Medes, the captains thereof, and all the rulers thereof, and all the land of his dominion. 29And the land shall tremble and sorrow: for every purpose of the Lord shall be performed against Babylon, to make the land of Babylon a desolation without an inhabitant. 30The mighty men of Babylon have forborn to fight, they have remained in their holds: their might hath failed; they became as women: they have burned her dwellingplaces; her bars are broken. 31One post shall run to meet another, and one messenger to meet another, to show the king of Babylon that his city is taken at one end, 32And that the passages are stopped, and the reeds they have burned with fire, and the men of war are affrighted. 33For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; The daughter of Babylon is like a threshingfloor, it is time to thresh her: yet a little while, and the time of her harvest shall come. (Jeremiah 51:27‑33)). The lesson is important when it is against spiritual foes we are called to fight. For the overcoming of the powers of evil, that wisdom is greatly needed which comes from acquaintance with God and His Word. See Ephesians 6:10-1810Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; (Ephesians 6:10‑18).
23 Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue,
Keepeth his soul from troubles.
Again we are directed to the subject that is so often brought to the fore in this book: the control of the tongue. Unwise words, however true they may sometimes be, are often the cause of grave trouble and disaster. To keep the mouth and the tongue as with an armed guard is to avoid many a grief and bitter memory. See James 3:2-122For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. 3Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. 4Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. 5Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! 6And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. 7For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: 8But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. 10Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. 11Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? 12Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. (James 3:2‑12) and compare the notes on Proverbs 11:13; 15:1; 17:2013A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter. (Proverbs 11:13)
1A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)
20He that hath a froward heart findeth no good: and he that hath a perverse tongue falleth into mischief. (Proverbs 17:20)
and 18:6-8.
24 Proud and haughty scorner is his name,
Who dealeth in proud wrath.
An arrogant, self-willed spirit is manifested by unbridled words and uncontrolled anger. A humble man is a gentle man; he will not be given to ebullitions of wrath or outbursts of indignation. Of course the “dealer in proud wrath” is to be distinguished from one who on extreme occasions loses control of his temper and utters hasty words under strong provocation. Such an one may afterward be plunged in deepest sorrow and humiliation over his sin; but it is otherwise with the proud and haughty scorner. He has no compunction of conscience because of his wrong spirit, but persists in a course of action that is in every way contrary to meekness and forbearance, forgetting that the wrath of man works not the righteousness of God. See Simeon and Levi (Gen. 49:5-75Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. 6O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honor, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their selfwill they digged down a wall. 7Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel. (Genesis 49:5‑7)).
25 The desire of the slothful killeth him;
For his hands refuse to labor.
26 He coveteth greedily all the day long;
But the righteous giveth and spareth not.
Like a drone in the hive, the slothful man covets the fruits of labor but detests the work which produces them. He is occupied with himself, full of desire, but opposed to effort. Selfishness is his strongest characteristic. The righteous man is a producer. He loves to acquire, but only in order that he may “provide things honest in the sight of all men,” properly meeting the need of those dependent upon him, and having plenty to give to any who are in need. In this he is an imitator of God “who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not.” Contrast the spirit manifested by Achan (Josh. 7:2121When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it. (Joshua 7:21)), and the Philippian assembly (2 Cor. 8:22How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. (2 Corinthians 8:2)). See notes on Proverbs 12:27; 13:4; 19:24; 20:427The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious. (Proverbs 12:27)
4The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat. (Proverbs 13:4)
24A slothful man hideth his hand in his bosom, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again. (Proverbs 19:24)
4The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing. (Proverbs 20:4)
27 The sacrifice of the lawless is abomination:
How much more, when he bringeth it with a wicked purpose!
See notes on Proverbs 15:8, 9, 268The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord: but the prayer of the upright is his delight. 9The way of the wicked is an abomination unto the Lord: but he loveth him that followeth after righteousness. (Proverbs 15:8‑9)
26The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord: but the words of the pure are pleasant words. (Proverbs 15:26)
and 21:4. The sacrifice of the lawless is ever detestable and unacceptable in the eyes of God; but especially so when it is but a cover for hypocrisy. To carry on so-called religious duties to be seen of men and to hide a life of wickedness, is iniquity of the most revolting character. It was this that caused our Lord so sternly to rebuke the scribes and Pharisees of His day. They were punctilious in observing the law and the added directions of the Talmud in regard to the temple-offerings; they made broad their phylacteries; they loved to pray standing on the street-corners to be seen of men; but meantime they profited at the expense of poor widows and were characterized by covetousness and wickedness of the vilest description. Their moral descendants are many in our own day, who can put on a devout expression, use pious words, and ostentatiously give of their wealth, to public charities; but whose inner lives are black and iniquitous. For a time they may cover from the eyes of men, their true condition, but in God’s sight their sacrifice is abominable.
28 A false witness shall perish:
And a man that heareth shall speak constantly.
29 A lawless man hardeneth his face:
But as for the upright, he establisheth his way.
The false witness may carry his point for the moment but his destruction is certain to come. He who testifies according to his hearing and knowledge will be able to maintain consistently his position, and speak constantly, or unchallenged. Such was the good confession witnessed before Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate by our Lord Jesus Christ, when the testimony of the lying witnesses agreed not one with the other (Matt. 26:59-64; 27:11-1459Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; 60But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, 61And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. 62And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? 63But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. 64Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. (Matthew 26:59‑64)
11And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest. 12And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing. 13Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? 14And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly. (Matthew 27:11‑14)
He who has no regard for law, human or divine, will harden his face and persist in his false words and ways; but the upright by his consistent speech and actions establishes his purpose.
30 There is no wisdom, nor understanding,
Nor counsel against Jehovah.
31 The horse is prepared against the day of battle,
But safety is of Jehovah.
The trusting soul rests on the fact that the counsel of the Lord will never be defeated. Therefore he fears not the wisdom or understanding or the plots of his foes. What can man do to harm the one who is covered by the wings of Jehovah? “Though a host encamp against me,” said David, “yet will I not fear.”
It is not numbers or superior accoutrements that ensures victory; but to have the God of our salvation going before us. This was the confidence of Asa when confronted by the vast army of Zerah the Ethiopian at the battle of Mareshah. “Asa cried unto the Lord his God, and said, Lord, it is nothing with Thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O Lord our God; for we rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go against this multitude. O Lord, Thou art our God; let not man prevail against Thee” (2 Chron. 14:1111And Asa cried unto the Lord his God, and said, Lord, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O Lord our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude. O Lord, thou art our God; let not man prevail against thee. (2 Chronicles 14:11)). This is delightful to contemplate. With Asa it was not a question of the relative strength and prowess of the hordes of Africans and the army of Judah; but it was simply a question of the power of God and the puny ability of weak, mortal men. “Let not man prevail against Thee,” was his plea. He chooses a word for man that emphasizes his insignificance and lack of strength.
In the Hebrew language there are various words which he might have used. Ahdahm is the ordinary term which links man with his first father, from a root meaning red clay. Geber is man in his might, from a root meaning to be strong. Ish is man in his dignity; whereas the word used by Asa is Enosh, from a root signifying frail and incurable. It is man in his low estate as fallen and mortal.
This then was all the great Ethiopian host meant to Asa. All were as nothing in contrast to the mighty power of the God who was leading on the army of Judah and Benjamin. The result was certain, “The Lord smote the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah; and the Ethiopians fled... for they were destroyed before the Lord, and before His host; and they carried away very much spoil” (verses 12, 13).
May each tried saint cast himself upon the same Omnipotent Saviour-God in every time of apparently overwhelming trouble, and thus prove for himself that “safety is of the Lord.”
1. See remarks on Chapter 11:8