Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked;
whoever guards his soul will keep far from them.
This proverb has the similar message of 22:3: "The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it." The new contrast is between the crooked (the wicked) and the righteous who take care to guard their souls. But…
The reward for humility and fear of the Lord
is riches and honor and life. -- Proverbs 22:4
Paul writes in Philippians, “Have this mind among you which was the mind of Christ,” and in Colossians, “Let the word of God dwell in you richly.” As we dig deeply in the word, God blesses us from his spiritual realm and we reflect his humility. There is no…
The prudent sees danger and hides himself,
but the simple go on and suffer for it.
This is the same message as the proverb: Fools rush in where angels fear to dread. The simple "go on" either because they do not see the danger or because they estimate themselves too highly, thinking they can withstand harm.
The prudent does not hide…
The rich and the poor meet together;
the LORD is the maker of them all.
Here we have two groups of people: rich and poor. They are opposites, which often do not overlap. Sometimes it’s because of opportunities, privileges, and access or the lack of these. It’s as if these two groups of people are journeying down two different roads in opposite directions…
The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
but the victory belongs to the Lord.
It is good to make plans. It is good to prepare well for whatever battle one faces. But always remember that the victory belongs to the Lord. His will will be done. With such knowledge, you should:
1. Maintain an attitude of prayer throughout…
No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel
can avail against the Lord.
Let Psalm 2 provide the commentary for this proverb:
Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his anointed, saying,
"Let us burst their…
A wicked man puts on a bold face,
but the upright gives thought to his ways.
Wickedness does take a certain courage. After all, the wicked man risks getting caught and punished. He is willing to incur the wrath of others. He takes these things upon himself all for greed and spite. And so he puts on his bold face to deceive and…
A false witness will perish,
but the word of a man who hears will endure.
Yet another unexpected contrast. We would think the second clause to say something like, "but the word of a man who tells the truth will endure." This contrast draws out the heart condition of the false witness. Such a person lies because he is not interested in a…
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination;
how much more when he brings it with evil intent.
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination even when he does so with (in his mind) good intent. The wicked will contribute to charity. They will attend church and contribute to its causes. They will offer up prayers and even volunteer to help others. But because they do…
The desire of the sluggard kills him,
for his hands refuse to labor.
All day long he craves and craves,
but the righteous gives and does not hold back.
How is it that desire kills the sluggard? Being lazy is the obvious cause. Being a slacker is a serious flaw, to be sure, but combining that flaw with ungodly desire is…
"Scoffer" is the name of the arrogant, haughty man
who acts with arrogant pride.
The arrogance of the scoffer goes beyond believing that he is better than others. Even the prideful man can respect the accomplishments and ability of others. Indeed, his pride grows greater with the more credit he gives to those who come in second to him. The scoffer disdains others.…
Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue
keeps himself out of trouble.
Do you seem to get enmeshed in trouble a lot? The problem may be your tongue. Don't be quick to deny it. The denier claims that the real problem is that he is misunderstood. Other people are too sensitive. They misread his intentions and need to examine themselves. He is sure…
A wise man scales the city of the mighty
and brings down the stronghold in which they trust.
Wisdom is stronger than physical strength. In sports, the smarter team is more likely to defeat the better athletic team. So it is in the military. In business, it is the company that is cleverer that wins over the company with more money and resources.…
Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness
will find life, righteousness, and honor.
This is the promise of the Gospel - our pursuit of righteousness and kindness will not be in vain. However you may feel at the moment; if you despair of good winning out; if you see about you only death, wickedness, and shame; know that life, righteousness, and honor is what you…
Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man's dwelling,
but a foolish man devours it.
The wise person saves and exercises restraint. For that reason he accumulates an abundance. The fool consumes whatever he gets.
Compare this proverb with verse 17: "Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich." The…
It is better to live in a desert land
than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.
Consider Peter's counsel to wives in light of this proverb:
"Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives-- when they see your…
The wicked is a ransom for the righteous,
and the traitor for the upright.
There is a sense in which the wicked receive the punishment that was to have been visited on others, including the righteous. Thus, Judah was spared when Sennacherib was moved by God to attack the Egyptians rather than his covenant people. And God could say,
Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man;
he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.
This would seem to be a proverb supporting the ascetic, stoic life. Its emphasis, however, is not contrasting pleasure with stoicism, but warning about a life devoted to physical pleasure. In such a pursuit the individual loses common sense. He thinks only of today and…
One who wanders from the way of good sense
will rest in the assembly of the dead.
Do you want rest? Do you want to escape the hassles of life? Then wander away from good sense. Throw off your responsibilities and act according to instinct, and you can live a contented life. It is fairly easy to be contented when you have no…
When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous
but terror to evildoers.
When justice is done, the righteous are vindicated and the wicked are punished. But the righteous also rejoice in justice for its own sake. They do not obey God's laws to keep from being punished, but because they actually delight in God's law. The wicked fear punishment, but they also are disheartened to…
A gift in secret averts anger,
and a concealed bribe, strong wrath.
This proverb speaks of a specific purpose in the use of bribes – averting anger. Most likely the situation is that of averting unjust anger. The king, or some other authority, has become overly angry and is about to harm someone. The offender, or a friend who steps in, gives the gift that appeases that anger.
Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor
will himself call out and not be answered.
In a way, this proverb is more sobering than the previous one that warns of being ruined. There is a unique fear of being alone, of calling out for help and receiving only silence. The wicked may scoff at such a thought but that is only because they have yet…
The Righteous One observes the house of the wicked;
he throws the wicked down to ruin.
The critical mistake of the wicked is to believe that he is keeping unobserved. Think of the image of law officials staking out a house hoping to see or hear something that might give evidence of the wicked's guilt. The great challenge of the law is to come up with clear evidence…
When a scoffer is punished, the simple becomes wise;
when a wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge.
This proverb parallels 19:25:
"Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence;
reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge."
Punishment has its place, though its effect will differ according to the individual. The scoffer is punished and at best is restricted from further wicked behavior. His…
The soul of the wicked desires evil;
his neighbor finds no mercy in his eyes.
Some people are simply mean-spirited. They laugh at the misery of others. They derive pleasure at insulting anyone. They revel in being bullies, connivers, and cheaters. To see a neighbor in need arouses spite rather than sympathy.
It is our responsibility to protect others from them and to seek justice against them. And…
It is better to live in a corner of the housetop
than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.
Husbands, of course, can also be quarrelsome, but since this proverb speaks specifically of the wife; let's consider her case. Someone has made the wry comment: "A man marries a woman and is surprised to find that she changes. A woman marries a man and is surprised that…
The way of the guilty is crooked,
but the conduct of the pure is upright.
What is within us will come out in our behavior. The guilty's way will be crooked; the conduct of the pure will show in their very demeanor - standing upright with a clear conscience. The guilty must lurk about, hiding in the shadows, checking their backs, slipping across from side to side of…
The violence of the wicked will sweep them away,
because they refuse to do what is just.
As we have learned in other proverbs, the wicked bring on themselves their own destruction. They suffer the consequences of their own violence. It is easy enough to see how they create trouble for themselves, but the consequence is that they place themselves under the judgment of God who will not…
The getting of treasures by a lying tongue
is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death.
The liar thinks he is setting a snare or escaping it by lying. To gain treasure he thinks he escapes like a fleeting vapor. He tells his lies in order to snatch the treasure. But he is merely setting up his own snare and insuring that his treasure will escape. Ask…
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance,
but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
This is a practical proverb to guide you today. It could make the difference between an action that leads to long-term blessing or long-term regret. Like a beautiful house built on poor land, many options look appealing but hide disastrous consequences. Many ideas seemed good "at the time," but proved…
Haughty eyes and a proud heart,
the lamp of the wicked, are sin.
Scripture makes clear God's displeasure of pride which is the root sin of the wicked. They will not humble themselves before God. This is played out in various ways, most notably through the violence committed against others.
The proverb reveals how pride mars their perspective on reality. Pride is the lamp by which the wicked…
To do righteousness and justice
is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.
For commentary, read these other scriptures:
"When you come to appear before me,
who has required of you this trampling of my courts?
Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations--
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
Your new moons and your…
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes,
but the Lord weighs the heart.
Note two insights in this proverb in relation to a Christian. First, a Christian will defend his behavior either through using scripture for justification or by appealing to conscience. There is the husband who defended being critical of his wife by appealing to Ephesians 5:25-27, which refers to Christ has sanctifying…
The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord;
he turns it wherever he will.
As a farmer irrigates his fields by creating canals to control the direction of the water, so the Lord provides for the fields of the earth by directing the hearts of rulers. Whether these rulers may be righteous or wicked, devout or profane, they nevertheless serve the deeper…
Blows that wound cleanse away evil;
strokes make clean the innermost parts.
Blows that come from one who loves you and hates the sin that binds you are essential for your welfare. It is right to be concerned with abuse, but it is as deadly to be denied the chastisement that awakens you to your sin and spurs you to action. It is deadly to be denied love…
The glory of young men is their strength,
but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.
There is glory and joy in being young. It is good to be young and strong, and the young should delight in what their youthfulness gives them strength to do. They have vitality; they are idealistic. They act with passion. They are able to move mountains by their strength.
Steadfast love and faithfulness preserve the king,
and by steadfast love his throne is upheld.
This is certainly a different perspective from the world's understanding, which is that what preserves a king or anyone else in a position of power is power. Also needed are shrewdness, the willingness to eliminate the competition, a large ego to fuel the drive for fame and power.
Consider what this proverb…
The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord,
searching all his innermost parts.
This spirit is our conscience which bears witness that the law of God is written on our hearts (Romans 2:15). God has placed within all of us - those inhabited by God's Spirit and those who are not - his inner moral compass, or, as this proverb notes, his inner moral lamp…
A wise king winnows the wicked
and drives the wheel over them.
The wise king is able, first, to discern between the wicked and the righteous (or innocent). Secondly, he is able then to act against the wicked in judgment. Many rulers exercise power but do so indiscriminately, harming both wicked and righteous; indeed, many rulers are especially brutal against the righteous. And there are rulers who know…
It is a snare to say rashly, "it is holy,"
and to reflect only after making vows.
Be cautious in making vows. Be cautious saying that you will set something apart for God, which is what saying “it is holy” means. Be cautious because God takes seriously your word. He will hold you accountable for what you say.
Because we are only as good as our word, our…
A man's steps are from the Lord;
how then can man understand his way?
How can a man understand his way apart from the Lord who works all things for his glory and purposes? The secular philosopher, despite his intellectual prowess, takes the wrong first step in his contemplation as he tries to understand his way. One may build insight upon insight, but if the foundation is not…
Unequal weights are an abomination to the Lord,
and false scales are not good.
Just thirteen verses before there is an almost identical proverb: "Unequal weights and unequal measures are both alike an abomination to the Lord." Perhaps the repetition is to reinforce the seriousness which God attaches to cheating.
Consider this proverb with the one preceding it: "Do not say, ‘I will repay evil' wait for the…
Do not say, "I will repay evil";
wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you.
The sense here is not about bringing the wicked to justice, which we are to promote. It is about exacting our personal revenge. This is a proverb for the worker outmaneuvered unjustly for a job promotion. It is for the student who is beat out for an award because of another student…
An inheritance gained hastily in the beginning
will not be blessed in the end.
Sudden wealth, whether it be through inheritance or winning the lottery or some scheme, as often as not creates trouble. Wealth, as with power and fame, carries its own dangers of corrupting the owner and creating anxiety over its protection. Jesus noted how difficult it was for a rich man to enter the kingdom…
If one curses his father or his mother,
his lamp will be put out in utter darkness.
Should this proverb be interpreted to mean if a child curses his good father or mother? Certainly the Scriptures instruct fathers and mothers to be good, and the premise in Proverbs is that fathers and mothers have wisdom that their children should heed. Even so, it is the specific family bond…
Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets;
therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.
Be a realist when it comes to confiding in certain people. The proverb does not advise that we be careful how we tell something confidential to a babbler. We are not given tips on how to assure that the babbler will not reveal our secrets. We are simply to stay away from him. We…
Plans are established by counsel;
by wise guidance wage war.
What are the benefits of counsel? One, the mere act of pausing to seek counsel reduces impulsive behavior. You are likely to give the matter more serious attention and to think more deliberately. Two, consulting with others sharpens your thinking as you explain your thoughts and as you listen to the thinking of others.
But this proverb is…
Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man,
but afterward his mouth will be full of gravel.
Consider the gravel. There is the gravel of a painful conscience. What at the moment seemed to be exciting comes back to haunt the heart that is not given fully to wickedness. The transgressor worries about breaking God's law and its consequences. If he is not too far gone, he…
There is gold and abundance of costly stones,
but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.
Like the previous proverb, this one presents a scenario that goes against the common wisdom of the marketplace. There are those who train to become experts in identifying pure gold and costly jewels. Such items are valued for their beauty, but their market value is based on their rarity. However beautiful…
"Bad, Bad," says the buyer,
but when he goes away, then he boasts.
The savvy shopper does not reveal how much he truly values the object he wants. He is critical of the object. He points out its flaws. He doesn't need it and certainly can't afford what is being asked. All the while he inwardly prizes it. When he does acquire the object, he then may boast…