Proverbs 31 – Advice for King Lemuel and a Noble Wife

1 The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.

Verses 1-9 – this brief section is also of non-Israelite origin.  King Lemuel is otherwise unknown.

“his mother” – this entire chapter emphasizes the role and significance of wise women.  The queen mother was an influential figure (see 1 Kgs  1:11-13; 15:13).

2 What, my son? an d what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows?

“son of my vows” – Hannah made a vow as she prayed for a son (1 Sam 1:11).

3 Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.

“strength unto women” – a warning against a large harem and sexual immorality (see 5:9-11; 1 Kgs  11:1; Neh 13:26).

4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:

“It is not for kings…to drink wine” – woe to the land whose rulers are drunkards (Ecc 10:16-17; Hos 7:5).

5 Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the Judgment of any of the afflicted.

6 Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.

7 Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.

8 Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction.

Verses 8-9 – the king represents God as the defender of the poor and needy (see 16:10; Ps 82:3; cf, Lev 19:15; Job 29:12-17; Is 1:17).

9 Open thy mouth, Judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.

10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.

“virtuous woman” – like Ruth ( Ruth 3:11).  She is “the crown to her husband” (12:4).

Verses 10-31 – the epilogue: an acrostic poem (each verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet) praising the “virtuous woman” (v 10).  It corresponds to 1:1-7 (the prologue) as it describes a “woman that feareth the LORD” (v 30;).  Such a woman is almost a personification of wisdom.  Like wisdom, “her price is far above rubies” (v 10; 3:15; 8:11), and he who finds her “obtains favor of the LORD” (8:35; 18:22).

11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.

12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.

“flax” – its fibers were made into linen (see vv 19, 22, 24; cf, Is 19:9).

14 She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.

“like the merchant’s ships” – she is an enterprising person (see v 18).

15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.

“She riseth also while it is yet night” – she is the opposite of the sluggard (see 6:9-10; 20:13).

16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.

“considereth a field…planteth a vineyard” – she shows good Judgment – unlike the sluggard, whose vineyard is overgrown with thorns and weeds (24:30-31).

17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.

18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.

“her merchandise is good” – her profit or value.  Like wisdom, “her price is far above rubies” (v 10; 3:15; 8:11).  The profit of wisdom “is better than the merchandise of silver” (3:14).

19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.

”spindle…distaff” – spinning thread was women’s work.

20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.

21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.

“clothed with scarlet” – of high quality, probably made of wool (cf, 2 Sam 1:23; Rev 18:16).

22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.

“silk” – associated with nobility (see Gen 41:42).

”purple” – linked with kings (Jdg 8:26; Sol 3:10). Or the rich (Lk 16:19; Rev 18:16).

23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.

“in the gates” – the court.

24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.

25 Strength and honor are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.

“Strength and honor are her clothing” – see Is 52:1, 1 Tim 2:9-10.  The opposite is to be “clothed with shame and dishonor (Ps 35:26).

”she shall rejoice in time to come” – she is free of anxiety and worry concerning the future (cf, Job 39:7).

26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.

“law of kindness” – given to her children and friends.  She is a wise and loving counselor (see 1;8; 6:20).

27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.

28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

“call her blessed” – because of the happy environment she creates and the joy she radiates to others (see Gen 30:13; Ps 72:17; Sol 6:9; Mal 3:12; cf Ruth 4:14-15).

29 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.

30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.

“Favor is deceitful” – cf, 5:3.

”beauty is vain” – cf Job 14:2; 1 Pet 3:3-5.

31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

“praise her” – honor comes through “humility and the fear of the LORD” (22:4).

Proverbs 30 – Words of Agur to His Son, Children, and Wisdom

1 The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, even the prophecy: the man spake unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ucal,

Verses 1-33 – the first of two chapters that serve as an appendix to Proverbs.

“Agur the son of Jaketh” – probably a wise man like Ethan and Heman (1 Kgs  4:31).

”prophecy” – usually the message of a prophet.  If “prophecy” is taken as the place name “Massa” (that is, “Jaketh of Massa”), Agur would then be associated with an Ishmaelite people (cf, Gen 25:13-14).

”Ithiel…Ucal” – perhaps students of Agur.

2 Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man.

“I am more brutish than any man” – an exaggerated expression of his ignorance as an expression of humility.  Paul described himself as the “chief” of sinners (1 Tim 1:16)

3 I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy.

“knowledge of the holy” – or of the “Holy One” (God).  This phrase occurs elsewhere in Pro
verbs only in

4 Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the

ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son’s name, if thou canst tell?

The use of rhetorical questions to express God’s greatness as Creator occurs also in Job 38:4-11; Is 40:12.

”if thou canst tell” – “Do you know?”  god similarly challenged Job (Job 38:4).

5 Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.

6 Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.

“Add thou not unto his words” – cf, Moses’ warning to the Israelites in Deut 4:2.

7 Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die:

“Two things” – the use of lists characterizes Agur’s sayings (see vv 15, 18, 21, 24, 29).

8 Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:

“food convenient for me” – ration or portion of daily food.  Cf, Job 23:12 and the Lord’s prayer (Matt 6:11).

9 Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.

“Lest I be full, and deny thee” – Moses predicted that Israel would forget God when their food was plentiful and their herds large (Deut 8:12-17; 31:20).

”Who is the LORD? ” – Why should I serve Him (see Job 21:14-16).

10 Accuse not a servant unto his master, lest he curse thee, and thou be found guilty.

“thou be found guilty” – since the accusation is false, the servant’s curse will be effective (cf, 26:2) – do do not suppose you can take advantage of a servant’s lowly position.

11 There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother.

“curseth their father” – punishable by death (see Ex 21;7; Lev 20:9; cf, v 17).

12 There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.

”pure in their own eyes” – like the Pharisees (see Lk 18:11; cf Is 65:5).

13 There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up.

14 There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men.

“whose teeth are as swords…as knives” – the wicked are like ravenous beasts that devour the prey (see Job 29:17).

15 The horseleach hath two daughters, crying, Give, give. There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough:

16 The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough.

“The grave” – its appetite is never satisfied (Is 5:14; Hab 2:5).

”barren womb” – in ancient Israel, a wife without children was desolate, even desperate (cf, Gen 1:2; 30:1; Ruth 1:11-13, 20-21; 1 Sam 1:6, 10-11; 2 Kgs  4:14).

17 The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it.

“The eye” – haughty and disdainful (see v 13).

”The ravens…shall pick it out, and the young eagles” – the loss of an eye was a terrible curse (see the story of Samson in Jdg 16:21).  Since vultures normally devoured the dead (see Jer 16:4; Matt 24:28), the meaning may be that the body of a disgraceful son will lie unburied and exposed.

18 There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not:

Verses 18-19 – it is difficult to understand the four “ways” because there are no tracks that can be readily followed.

19 The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.

“way of an eagle” – soaring and swooping majestically (cf Job 39:27; Jer 48:40, 49:22).

”way of a man with a maid” – probably a reference to the mystery of courting and how it leads to consummation.

20 Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness.

“adulterous” – see 2:16.

”She eateth, and wipeth her mouth” – making love is compared to eating food also in 9:17.

21 For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear:

22 For a servant when he reigneth; and a fool when he is filled with meat;

23 For an odious woman when she is married; and an handmaid that is heir to her mistress.

“an odious woman when she is married” – probably one of several wives, who is miserable because her husband does not love her (cf, Leah in Gen 29:31-32).

”handmaid that is heir to her mistress” – she replaces the wife in the affections of the husband, perhaps because she was able to bear a child, whereas the wife was barren (cf, Hagar and Sarah in Gen 16:1-6).

24 There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise:

25 The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer;

26 The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks;

“conies” – the hyrax, or the rock badger.

”in the rocks” – which provide a refuge for them (see Ps 104:18).

27 The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands;

“go they forth…by bands” – locusts are portrayed as a mighty army in Joel 2:3-9.

28 The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings’ palaces.

29 There be three things which go well, yea, four are comely in going:

30 A lion which is strongest among beasts, and turneth not away for any;

31 A greyhound; a he goat also; and a king, against whom there is no rising up.

“greyhound” – the Hebrew is uncertain.  Some translators interpret it “rooster.”

”he goat” – goats were used to lead flocks of sheep (see Jer 50:8; Dan 8:5).

32 If thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thyself, or if thou hast thought evil, lay thine hand upon thy mouth.

“lifting up thyself” – pride is condemned in 8:13; 11:2; 16:18.

”thine hand upon thy mouth” – stop your plotting immediately (cf, Job 21:5; 40:4).

33 Surely the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood: so the forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife.

Proverbs 29 – Turning Away Anger, Authority, Children, and Prophecy

  1 He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.

“being often reproved hardeneth his neck” – Eli’s sons died because of their stubbornness  (see 1 Sam 2:25; cf, Deut 9:6, 13).

”Shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy” – cf, the fate of the mockers in 1:22-27.

2 When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.

“when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” – see 28:12; see also Jdg 2:18.  The Israelites groaned in Egypt (Ex 2:23-24).

3 Whoso loveth wisdom rejoiceth his father: but he that keepeth company with harlots spendeth his substance.

“he that keepeth company with harlots spendeth his substance” – wastes his money (see 5:10; 6:26).

4 The king by Judgmen t establisheth the land: but he that receiveth gifts overthroweth it.

“The king by Judgment stablisheth the land” – the king brings stability through the practice of justice (see 16:12).

5 A man that flattereth his neighbor spreadeth a net for his feet.

6 In the transgression of an evil man there is a snare: but the righteous doth sing and rejoice.

7 The righteous considereth the cause of the poor: but the wicked regardeth not to know it.

8 Scornful men bring a city into a snare: but wise men turn away wrath.

9 If a wise man contendeth with a foolish man, whether he rage or laugh, there is no rest.

“Whether he rage  or laugh” – the fool will go from anger to ridicule in his attempt to disrupt justice.

”rage” – like an angry bear (17:12) or the tossing sea (Is 57:20-21).

10 The bloodthirsty hate the upright: but the just seek his soul.

“The bloodthirsty hate the upright” – their schemes are described in 1:11-16; cf, Ps 5:6).

11 A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.

“uttereth all his mind” – says whatever he feels when losing his temper (see v 9; 14:16-17).

12 If a ruler hearken to lies, all his servants are wicked.

13 The poor and the deceitful man meet together: the LORD lighteneth both their eyes.

14 The king that faithfully Judgeth the poor, his throne shall be established forever.

15 The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.

16 When the wicked are multiplied, transgression increaseth: but the righteous shall see their fall.

17 Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.

“Correct they son” – teach him and train him (see 13:24).

18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

“vision” – a message from God given through a prophet; a prophetic vision (see 1 Sam 3:1; Is 1:1; Amos 8:11-12).

”perish” – Lit, “are unrestrained.”  The people act without the moral restraint of God’s Word; possibly an allusion to the sinful actions of the Israelites while Moses was on mount Sinai (see Ex 32;25).

19 A servant will not be corrected by words: for though he understand he will not answer.

“will not be corrected by words” – servants, like sons (vv 15, 17), must be disciplined.

20 Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of him.

21 He that delicately bringeth up his servant from a child shall have him become his son at the length.

“delicately bringeth up his servant” – pampers his servant.

”Shall have him…son at the length” – the Hebrew lit. reads, “the end shall be trouble.”  The word translated “trouble” appears only here.

22 An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression.

23 A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit.

24 Whoso is partner with a thief hateth his own soul: he heareth cursing, and bewrayeth it not.

“cursing” – the swearing of an oath in the courtroom to tell the truth.

”and be wrayeth it not” – he will be held responsible for failing to testify against his partner in crime (cf Lev 5:1).

25 The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.

26 Many seek the ruler’s favor; but every man’s Judgment cometh from the LORD.

“every man’s Judgment cometh from the LORD” – God controls a king’s actions and defends the cause of the poor and the just (cf, Job 36:6).

27 An unjust man is an abomination to the just: and he that is upright in the way is abomination to the wicked.

Proverbs 28 – Wicked are Fearful, Prayer Abomination, and Leaving Sin

1 The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.

“wicked flee” – see Lev 26:17, 36; Ps 53:5).

bold as a lion” – like David in 1 Sam 17:46; cf, Ps 18:33-38.

2 For the transgression of a land many are the princes thereof: but by a man of understanding and knowledge the state thereof shall be prolonged.

”many are the princes thereof” – Israel’s rebellion often brought rapid change in leadership (see 1 Kgs  16:8-28; 2 Kgs  5:8-15).

”by a man of understanding…shall be prolonged” – a wise ruler will be successful (se
e 8:15-16; 24:5; 29:4).

3 A poor man that oppresseth the poor is like a sweeping rain which leaveth no food.

“sweeping rain” – describes the destru ctive power of Assyria’s army in Is 28:2.  The gentle rain is compared to a righteous king in Ps 72:6-7).

4 They that forsake the law praise the wicked: but such as keep the law contend with them.

“law” – – either the teachings of wisdom (3:1; 7:2) or the law of Moses (Ps 119:53).

5 Evil men understand not Judgment: but they that seek the LORD understand all things.

“they that seek the LORD” – who fear Him (1:7).

”understand all things” – all things that are necessary to live a godly and successful life.  They know “righteousness, and justice, and equity” (2:9).

6 Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich.

7 Whoso keepeth the law is a wise son: but he that is a companion of riotous men shameth his father.

“companion of riotous men” – persons who pursue a hedonistic lifestyle without regard to God.

8 He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor.

“usury and unjust gain” – prohibited in Ex 22:25; Lev 25:35-37; Deut 23:19-20; Ez 22:12.

9 He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.

“his project shall be abomination” – like the sacrifice of the wicked in 15:8 (see Ps 66:18; Is 1:15; 59:1-2).

10 Whoso causeth the righteous to go astray in an evil way, he shall fall himself into his own pit: but the upright shall have good things in possession.

11 The rich man is wise in his own conceit; but the poor that hath understanding searcheth him out.

“rich man is wise in his own conceit” – like the fool (26:5) or the sluggard (26:16).

12 When righteous men do rejoice, there is great glory: but when the wicked rise, a man is hidden.

“a man is hidden” – he hides to avoid the tyranny of the wicked ruler.  Obadiah hid 100 prophets during the reign of Ahab (1 Kgs  18:13), and Joash was hidden for sex years while the wicked Athaliah ruled (2 Kgs  11:2-3).

13 He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.

“covereth his sins” – tries to hide his wrong-doing.  Not the physical and psychological pain referred to in 3:7-8; Ps 32:3.

14 Happy is the man that feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.

“he that hardeneth his heart” – like Pharaoh (Ex 7:13), and the Israelites who tested the Lord at Horeb (Ex 17:7; cf Ps 95:8; Rom 2:5).

15 As a roaring lion, and a ranging bear; so is a wicked ruler over the poor people.

“roaring lion” – full of rage and murderous intent (cf 19:12; Matt 2:16; 1 Pet 5:8).

”ranging bear” – an angry bear on the attack (see 17:12).

16 The prince that wanteth understanding is also a great oppressor: but he that hateth covetousness shall prolong his days.

“he that hateth covetousness shall prolong his days” – unlike those who love such gain (see 1:19).

17 A man that doeth violence to the blood of any person shall flee to the pit; let no man stay him.

“A man that doeth violence to the blood” – a murderer.

”Shall flee to the pit” – will experience an early death himself as punishment for his sin.  Murder was punishable by death (see Gen 9:6; Ex 21:14).

18 Whoso walketh uprightly shall be saved: but he that is perverse in his ways shall fall at once.

“uprightly…perverse” – contrasted also in v 6; 19:1.

19 He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough.

“followeth after vain persons” – Lit. “follows after unprofitable [things].”  Probably referring here to schemes for making easy money.

20 A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent.

“abound with blessings” – with God’s gifts and favors (see 3:13-18; 10:6; Gen 49:26; Deut 33:16).

”he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent” – he will not go unpunished for his wrong-doing.  Cf, similar warnings in 20:21; 23:4).

21 To have respect of persons is not good: for a piece of bread that man will transgress.

”for a piece of bread that man will transgress” – perhaps a reference to a bribe, however small (cf, Ez 13:19).

22 He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him.

”hasteth to be rich” – a warning to him is given in v 20 (cf, similar warnings in 20:21; 23:4).

”hath an evil eye” – he has impure motives (see 23:6).

”poverty shall come upon him” – because it is the generous man who prospers.

23 He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favor than he that flattereth with the tongue.

24 Whoso robbeth his father or his mother, and saith, It is no transgression; the same is the companion of a destroyer.

25 He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the LORD shall be made fat.

“shall be made fat” – will become prosperous, as will also the generous person (11:25) and the one who is diligent (13:4, “the soul of the diligent shall be made fat”).

26 He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.

“whoso walketh wisely” – equals “whose putteth his trust in the LORD” in 29:25; cf 3:5).

27 He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse.

“shall not lack” – generosity is the path to blessing (see 11:24; 14:21; 19:17).

”hideth his eyes” – from the needs of the poor (see 21:13).

28 When the wicked rise, men hide themselves: but when they perish, the righteous increase.

Proverbs 27 – Tomorrow, Anger, Rebuke, and Hiding from Evil

  1 Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.

Cf, the words of the rich fool in Lk 29:5; cf, 16:13.

2 Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.

”Let another man praise thee –

For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing t hemselves among themselves, are not wise.

For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth (2 Cor 10:12, 18).

3 A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty; but a fool’s wrath is heavier than them both.

4 Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?

5 Open rebuke is better than secret love.

“Open rebuke” – called the “reproof of life” in 15:31; cf Gal 2:14.

6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend” – called a sign of kindness in Ps 141:5.

7 The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.

8 As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place.

“man that wandereth from his place” – by leaving home, he has lost his security and may be vulnerable to temptation (cf 7:21-23).

9 Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.

“perfume” – cf, the one “perfumed with myrrh and frankincense” (Sol 3:6).

10 Thine own friend, and thy father’s friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother’s house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbor that is near than a brother far off.

Do not fail a friend in need; when in need rely on friendship rather than on mere family relationships.

”brother far off” – either physically or emotionally.

11 My son, be wise, and make my heart glad, that I may answer him that reproacheth me.

“That I may answer him that reproacheth me” – a wise son (or student) serves as a powerful testimony that the father (or teacher) who has shaped him has shown himself to be a man of worth.

12 A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.

13 Take his garment that is surety for a stranger, and take a pledge of him for a strange woman.

14 He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.

“blesseth his friend” – perhaps to win his favor (cf Ps 12:2).

15 A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike.

16 Whosoever hideth her hideth the wind, and the ointment of his right hand, which bewrayeth itself.

17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

“sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” – develops and molds his character.

18 Whoso keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof: so he that waiteth on his master shall be honoured.

19 As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.

“the heart of man to man” – the condition of a man’s heart indicates his true character like the reflection of one’s face in a pool of water (see Matt 5:8).

20 Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.

“are never full” – their appetite is insatiable (see Is 5:14).

21 As the fining pot for silver, and the furnace for gold; so is a man to his praise.

“fining pot…gold” – silver and gold were refined to remove their impurities (cf Is 1:25; Mal 3:3).

”So is a man to his praise” – how a person responds to praise is a reflection of one’s character.  One must not become proud, and one must be wary of flattery (cf, 12:8; Lk 6:26).

22 Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him.

“mortar” – a bowl (see Num 11:8).

”pestle” – a club-like tool for pounding grain in a mortar.

”will not his foolishness depart from him” – in spite of severe punishment, fools refuse to change (see 26:11; Jer 5:3).

23 Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.

Verses 23-27 – a section praising the basic security afforded by agricultural pursuits – reflecting the agricultural base of the ancient economy.

 “Be thou diligent…herds” – like Jacob with Laban’s flocks (Gen 31:38-40).

24 For riches are not forever: and doth the crown endure to every generation?

“doth the crown endure to every generation? ” – a rhetorical question expecting a negative answer.  Even kings may lose their wealth and power (see Job 19:9; Lam 5:16).

25 The hay appeareth, and the tender grass sheweth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered.

“The hay appeareth…grass sheweth itself” – this began in March or April.

26 The lambs are for thy clothing, and the goats are the price of the field.

“price of the field” – see 31:16.  Sheep and goats sometimes also served as tribute payments (see 2 Kgs  3:4).

27 And thou shalt have goats’ milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens.

”goats’ milk” – commonly drunk along with cows’ milk (see Deut 32:13-14; Is 7:21-22).

Proverbs 25 – Self-Exaltation, Words, False Witness, and Lawsuit

1 These are also proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied out.

Verses 25:1 – 29:27 – another collection of Solomon’s proverbs similar to 10:1-22:16.

“men of Hezekiah…copied out” – there was a great revival in the reign of Hezekiah (c 715-686 B.C.), and the king restored the singing of hymns to it proper place (2 Chr 29:30).  His interest in the words of David corresponds to his support of a compilation of Solomon’s proverbs.  Solomon was the last king to rule over all Israel during the united monarchy; Hezekiah was the first king to rule over all Israel (now restricted to the southern kingdom) after the destruction of the divided monarchy’s northern kingdom.

2 It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter.

“to conceal a things” – God gets glory because man cannot understand His universe or the way He rules it (see Deut 29:29; Job 26:14; Is 40:12-24; Rom 11:33-36:.

“to search out a matter” – a king gets glory if he can uncover the truth and administer justice (see 1 Kgs  3:9; 4:34).

3 The heaven for height, and the earth for depth, and the heart of kings is unsearchable.

“is unsearchable” – cannot be understood; like the four things in 30:18-19.  Yet God controls the hearts of kings.

4 Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer.

“Take away the dross from the silver” – a process compared to the purification of society in general and rulers in particular in Is 1:22-25; Ez 22:18; Mal 3:2-3.

5 Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness.

6 Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men:

“Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king” – probably at a feast (cf 23:1).  Jesus gives a similar warning about taking the place of honor at a wedding feast (Lk 14:7-11).

7 For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.

“Come up hither” – cf, “Friend, go up higher’ (Lk 14:10; contrast Is 22:15-19).

8 Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbor hath put thee to shame.

“Go not forth hastily to strive” – a warning about the seriousness of disputes (see 17:14) and the need to exercise caution in initiating a dispute (see 24:28).

9 Debate thy cause with thy neighbor himself; and discover not a secret to another:

“discover not a secret” – if you do, you are a gossip (see 11:13; 20:19).

10 Lest he that heareth it put thee to shame, and thine infamy turn not away.

“thine infamy” – a gossip gets a bad reputation, a serious issue because a good name is one of life’s most valuable possessions (see 22:10.

11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

“gold…silver” – cf, the fruit of wisdom in 8:19.

12 As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.

“earring of gold” – comparable to the beautiful wreath and necklace that represent the adornment of wisdom and sound teaching  (see 1:9; 3:22; 4:9).

“wise reprover” – cf the “reproof of life” in 15:31.

13 As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refresheth the soul of his masters.

“cold of snow” – probably a drink cooled by snow from the mountains; it didn’t snow at harvest time (see 26:1; contrast 10:26).

14 Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain.

“like clouds…without rain” – an image applied to unproductive men in Jude 12.

15 By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.

16 Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.

17 Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbor’s house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.

18 A man that beareth false witness a
gainst his neighbor is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow.

19 Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.

“broken tooth…foot out of joint” – relying on Egypt was like leaning on a crushed reed (Is 36:3).

20 As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart.

“nitre” – probably sodium carbonate, natron (see Jer 2:22).  There is a vigorous reaction when vinegar is poured on it.

“singeth songs to a heavy heart” – the exiles were reluctant to sing the songs of Zion (Ps 137:3-4).1

21 If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:

Verses 21-22 – quoted in Rom 12:20 as a way to overcome evil with good.

Kindness to one’s enemy is encouraged in 20:22; Ex 23:4-5.

“give him bread…water” – at Elisha’s request, a trapped Aramean army was given a great feast and then sent home (2 Kgs  6:21-23; cf 2 Chr 28:15).

22 For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee.

“heap coals of fire upon his head” – horrible punishment reserved for the wicked (see Ps 140:10).  Here, however, it is kindness that will hurt the enemy (cf, the broken bone of v 15) but perhaps win him over.  Alternatively, the expression may reflect an Egyptian expiation ritual, in which a guilty person, as a sign of his repentance, carried a basin of glowing coals on his head.  The meaning here, then, would be that in returning good for evil and so being kind to your enemy, you may cause him to repent or change.

“LORD shall reward thee” – even if the enemy remains hostile (cf, 11:18; 19:17).

23 The north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.

“north” – perhaps northwest (cf, Lk 12:54).

” backbiting tongue” – one that spreads slander (cf 10:18).

24 It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman and in a wide house.

25 As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.

26 A righteous man falling down before the wicked is as a troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring.

27 It is not good to eat much honey: so for men to search their own glory is not glory.

“to search their own glory” – to seek glory for oneself (see vv 6-7).

28 He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.

“He that hath no rule over his own spirit” – one who is lacking self-control (see 16:32.

“city that is…without walls” – defenseless and disgraced (cf Neh 1:3).

Proverbs 24 – Wisdom, Character, Revenge, and Laziness

1 Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them.

2 For their heart studieth destruction, and their lips talk of mischief.

“studieth destruction” – plans and devises violence (see 1:10-11; 6:14; Job 15:45; Ps 38:12).

3 Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established:

“house” – symbolic of the life of an individual or a family.

4 And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.

“precious and pleasant riches” – wisdom promises to bestow wealth on those who lover her (8:21).

5 A wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength.

6 For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counselors there is safety.

7 Wisdom is too high for a fool: he openeth not his mouth in the gate.

“in the gate” – the normal meeting place for official business.

8 He that deviseth to do evil shall be called a mischievous person.

“deviseth to do evil” – see v 2, see also Job 15:35; Ps 38:12.
“mischievous person” – a schemer; called a “man of wicked devices” in 12:2; 14:17.

9 The thought of foolishness is sin: and the scorner is an abomination to men.

“The thought of foolishness” – the plotting to do evil.“scorner is an abomination to men” – because he is proud, dishonoring (9:7) and contentious (22:10).

10 If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.

11 If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain;

“them that are drawn unto death” – perhaps innocent men condemned to die (cf 17:15; Is 58:6-7).

12 If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render
to every man according to his works?

13 My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste:

14 So shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul: when thou hast found it, then there shall be a reward, and thy expectation shall not be cut off.

“the knowledge of wisdom…unto thy soul” – it nourishes and brings healing (see 16:24).“expectation” – hope for the future (see Ps 9:18; 37:37; Jer 29:11).

15 Lay not wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; spoil not his resting place:

16 For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.

“seven times” – many times (see 6:16; Job 5:19).“riseth up again” – God promises to uphold and rescue the righteous (cf, Ps 34:19; 37:24; Mic 7:8).

17 Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth:

18 Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.

“turn away his wrath from him” – Edom was made desolate because she rejoiced over Israel’s destruction (see Ez 35:15).

19 Fret not thyself because of evil men, neither be thou envious at the wicked;

20 For there shall be no reward to the evil man; the candle of the wicked shall be put out.

“no reward” – for himself or his posterity (see Ps 37:2, 28, 38; contrast v 14; 23:18).

21 My son, fear thou
the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change:

“fear thou the LORD and the king” – submission to civil authority is also commanded in Ecc 8:2-5.  1 Pet says, “Fear God.  Hono r the king,” and Rom 13:1-7 urges the same obedience.  These passages all view the king as a terror to the wicked (cf 20:8, 26).

22 For their calamity shall rise suddenly; and who knoweth the ruin of them both?

“calamity shall rise suddenly; And…ruin” – God’s Judgment is more common (see 6:15; 11:3, 5), but the power of the king is seen in 20:26.

“them both” – God and the king.

23 These things also belong to the wise. It is not good to have respect of persons in Judgment.

“Verses 23-34 – am appendix to 22:17-24:22, giving a few additional sayings of the wise.
“It is not good…respect of persons” – showing favoritism or partiality is condemned (see 18:5).

24 He that saith unto the wicked, Thou art righteous; him shall the people curse, nations shall abhor him:

“Thou art righteous” –see 17:15.”Him shall the people curse” – just as they curse the man who “withholden corn” (see 11:26).

25 But to them that rebuke him shall be delight, and a good blessing shall come upon them.

26 Every man shall kiss his lips that giveth a right answer.

“kiss his lips” – cf the “pleasant words” that are “sweet to the soul” in 16:24.1

27 Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.

“make it fit…in the field” – plan carefully and acquire the means as you build your house.

28 Be not a witness against thy neighbor without cause; and deceive not with thy lips.

29 Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work.

“I will do so to him” – a spirit of revenge is discouraged also in 20:22; cf 25:21-22; Matt 5:43-45; Rom 12:1.

30 I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding;

31 And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.

32 Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction.

33 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:

34 So shall thy poverty come as one that travaileth; and thy want as an armed man.

Proverbs 23 – Appetite, Alcoholism, and Honoring Parents & The Israelite Family

1 When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee:

2 And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.

3 Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat.

“Be not desirous of his dainties” – lavish foods served at the king’s table.  Repeated in a different context in v 6.

“deceitful” – perhaps the meaning is that the ruler wants to obligate you in some way, even to influence you to support a wicked scheme (cf Ps 141:4).

4 Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.

“Labor not to be rich” – the desire to get rich can ruin a person physically and spiritually. 

For the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:10).  Cf 15:27; 28:20; Heb 13:5.

5 Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.

“They fly away” – our trust must be in God, not in riches (see Jer 17:11; Lk 12:21; 1 Tim 6:17).

6 Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats:

“him…evil eye” – a selfish person who is eager to get rich (see 28:22).

7 For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.

8 The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words.

“vomit” – out of disgust at the attitude of the host.

9 Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.

“despise the wisdom of thy words” – fools despise wisdom (1:7) and hate knowledge and correction (1:22; 12:1).  They heap abuse on one who rebukes them (9:7).

10 Remove not the old landmark; and enter not into the fields of the fatherless:

“old landmark” – boundary stones.

“fatherless” – oppressing the widow and the fatherless is strongly denounced (see Is 10:2; Jer 22:3; Zech 7:10).

11 For their redeemer is mighty; he shall plead their cause with thee.

“Redeemer” – Kinsman-Redeemer, someone who helped a close relative regain land (see Lev 25:25) or who avenged his death (Num 35:12, 19).  God is a “father of the fatherless, and a Judge of the widows” (Ps 68:5).

12 Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge.

13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.

14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

15 My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine.

16 Yea, my reins shall rejoice, when thy lips speak right things.

17 Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long.

18 For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.

“end” – a future when God will reward the person who fears Him (see Ps 37:37; Jer 29:11).

19 Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way.

20 Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh:

“Be not amongst” – see 1:15; 12:26.

“winebibbers” – Heavy drinkers.  Drunkenness is also condemned in vv 29-35; 20:1; cf, Deut 21:20; Matt 24:49; Lk 21:34; Rom 13:13; Eph 5:18; 1 Tim 3:3.

21 For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.

”drowsiness” – cf, the
poverty that overtakes the sluggard in

22 Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.

23 Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.

24 The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him.

25 Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice.

26 My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.

27 For a whore is a deep ditch; and a strange woman is a narrow pit.

28 She also lieth in wait as for a prey, and increaseth the transgressors among men.

29 Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes?

“Who hath woe?” – cf, the woes pronounced on drunkards in Is 5:11, 22.

“wounds” – cf the “stripes for the back of fools” in 19:29.

Verses 29-35 – a vivid description of the physical and psychological effects of drunkenness.

30 They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.

“tarry long at the wine” – see 1 Sam 25:36.

“mixt wine” – probably with spices (see 9:2; Ps 75:8).

31 Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.

32 At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.

“biteth like a serpent” – death will be the result (cf Num 21:6).

33 Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.

“behold strange women” – or “strange things,” perhaps a reference to the delirium that afflicts the alcoholic.

34 Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast.

“thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea” – your head will be spinning.

35 They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.

“they have stricken me…I was not sick” – the drunkard is not even aware of the injuries he received from the beating.  Cf, the condition of Israel in Jer 5:3.

“I will seek it yet again” – the woe and misery do not prevent him from repeating his folly (cf, 26:11; 2:22; Is 56:12).

The Israelite Family

Instructions of Shuruppak (dated to c. 2600 BCE — c. 2500 BCE).

This exhibit is in the Museum of the Oriental Institute of Chicago.

Translation: “Shurrupak gave instructions to his son:
* Do not buy an ass which brays too much.
* Do not commit rape upon a man’s daughter, do not announce it to the courtyard.
* Do not answer back against your father
* Do not raise a ‘heavy eye.'”

Domestic issues abound in the book of Proverbs, an indication that the family  played an essential role in the development of wisdom literature, both in the Biblical and Non-Biblical sense.

Clay Tablet
Summary account of silver for the governor written in Sumerian Cuneiform on a clay tablet. From Shuruppak, Iraq, circa 2500 BC. British Museum, London.

Although the wise man had an institutional function on par with that of the priest and prophet (Jer 18:18), Proverbs illustrates the familial context of religious and ethical instruction.

The concept of the family was probably more broadly defined in ancient Israel than in modern Western terms.  The fundamental unit was the household (Hebrew bet av; lit., “father’s house”), which included a patriarch with his wife, his sons and their wives, his grandsons and any other dependents.

Parental exhortations to the son provide the literary shape for Prov 23:13-28. This very ancient form of father-son instruction occurred widely in the ancient Near East, as in the Mesopotamian instructions of Shuruppak (mid-third millennium B.C.), in which the hero, Shuruppak, begins his teachings by declaring, “My son, I will instruct you.” Moreover, the use of physical chastisement for a child’s moral training advocated in vv 13-14 has an analogue in the Aramaic story of Ahiqar (7th-6th centuries B.C.), which similarly exhorts the reader to discipline his son with the rod.

These similarities reflect the international flavor of wisdom literature and familial responsibility for religious and ethical education (cf. Deut 6:6-7; Prov 45:1-4). Even so, especially that presented in Proverbs, has distinctive features:

Education in Proverbs is centered in the family and has the good of the individual in view.  By contrast, Greek education was centered in the gymnasium and had the good of the city-state (polis) in view.

Shuruppak (“the healing place”), modern Tell Fara, was an ancient Sumerian city situated about 55 kilometres (35 mi) south of Nippur on the banks of the Euphrates in Iraq’s Al-Qādisiyyah Governorate. Shuruppak was dedicated to Ninlil, also called Sud, the goddess of grain and the air.

Education in Proverbs is primarily directed at moral and spiritual virtue rather than toward vocational training. By contrast, some wisdom texts from Egypt are principally concerned with preparing a young man for work in the government or as a scribe.

Education in Proverbs does not focus upon any particular social class. Egyptian wisdom literature, on the other hand, was to a large extent directed to the elite.

Education in Proverbs begins with the fear of God as the source and goal of all wisdom.  This focus has no parallel in other ancient texts.

Proverbs 22 – Good Name, Parenting, and Diligence & The Teaching of Amenemope

1 A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.

“good name” – its value is recognized also in 3:4; 10:7; Ecc 7:1).

“rather than silver and gold” – like the possession of wisdom (see 3:14; 16:16).

2 The rich and poor meet together: the LORD is the maker of them all.

3 A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.

4 By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honor, and life.

See 18:12.  “humility and the fear of the LORD” – associated also in 15:33.

“riches, and honor, and life” – benefits for those who seek wisdom.

5 Thorns and snares are in the way of the froward: he that doth keep his soul shall be far from

“Thorns and snares” – evil (cf, 15:19).

“shall be far from them” – by taking the “highway of the upright (16:17).

6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

“Train” – or “Dedicate,” as in 1 Kgs  8:63; or “Start.”  Instruction (1:8) and discipline (2:15) are primarily involved.

“way he should go” – the right way, the way of wisdom (see 4:1).

7 The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

“the borrower is servant to the lender” –one of the reasons why putting up security for someone else (v 26) was frowned upon (cf, Neh 5:4-5).

8 He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity: and the rod of his anger shall fail.

“soweth iniquity shall reap vanity” – see 12:21.

“rod of his anger” – his ability to oppress others (see Ps 125:3; Is 14:5-6).

  9 He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor.

10 Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease.

11 He that loveth pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips the king shall be his friend.

“the grace of his lips” – gracious speech is characteristic of the wise man in Ecc 10:12.

12 The eyes of the LORD preserve knowledge, and he overthroweth the words of the transgressor.

“The eyes of the LORD preserve” –

For mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes (Jer 16:17). 

Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do (Heb 4:13).

See Job 31:4; 34:21.

13 The slothful man saith, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets.

“overthroweth…the words of the transgressor” – overrules their plans and desires (see 16:9).

14 The mouth of strange women is a deep pit: he that is abhorred of the LORD shall fall therein.

“the mouth of strange women” – the seductive speech of the adulteress (see 2:16; 7:5).

“deep pit” – perhaps a well or a hunter’s trap (see 5:22).

15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.

16 He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.

“He that oppresseth the poor” – condemned also in 14:31; 28:3).

“giveth to the rich” – perhaps bribes (see 17:8; 18:16; 19:6).

17 Bow down thi
ne ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto my knowledge.

“words of the wise” – a title, like “proverbs of Solomon” in 10:1.

18 For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee; they shall withal be fitted in thy lips.

19 That thy trust may be in the LORD, I have made known to thee this day, even to thee.

20 Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge,

21 That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee?

“to them that send unto thee” – possibly a parent or guardian.

22 Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate:

23 For the LORD will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them.

“the LORD will plead their cause” –

The LORD standeth up to plead, and standeth to Judge the people.  The LORD will enter into Judgment with the ancients of his people, and the princes thereof: for ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses.  What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? Saith the Lord GOD of hosts (Is 3:13-15).

And I will come near to you to Judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those    that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts (Mal 3:5).

24 Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go:

“an angry man” – his characteristics are given in 14:16-17; 15:18; 29:22.

25 Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.

26 Be not thou one of them that strike hands, or of them that are sureties for debts.

27 If thou hast nothing to pay, why should he take away thy bed from under thee?

“take away thy bed from under thee” – you will be reduced to poverty.

28 Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.

29 Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.

“a man diligent in his business” – he works hard and is skilled in his craft.  Craftsmen were considered to be wise.

“stand before kings” – like Joseph, an administrator (Gen 41:46); David, a musician (1 Sam 1:21-23); and Hiram, a worker in bronze (1 Kgs  7:13-14).

The Teaching of Amenemope

King Rameses II is actually more famous than his father because he accomplished more and had an entire temple built for him.

His reign lasted for a total of 67 years from 1292 B.C. to 1225 B.C.

He is known for increasing his monarchy and the economy of Egypt by increasing slavery, increasing luxury but also helping the lower class.

He also is known for defeating Egypt’s two main enemies, the Hittites and the Asia Minor.

After his death in 1225 B.C. the Egyptians made one of their largest temples in the world for this mighty ruler.

Arrange into 30 chapters of varying lengths, the Teaching of Amenemope is an Egyptian text probably dating to the time of Rameses (not sure which Rameses this is).  It is preserved complete on one papyrus housed in the British Museum, as well as in all several fragments appearing in other collections.

Eannashumiddina was governor of Southern Babylon when he gifted land to an unknown person between 1125 and 1100 B.C.

For this, he used the uniquely Mesopotamian legal tool of a kudurru – a stone upon which a lord delimited land given to a specific vassal, or conditions of use.

The original of a kudurru would be kept in a temple, and a clay copy of the contract would be given to a landholder to use as a boundary stone to confirm his ownership of the property.

Under the top strip of engravings representing various and relevant gods, the boundaries of the gifted land are described in the lower half of the stone, in cuneiform text upon the stone, as are the names of the surveyors.

This Babylonian gift document included ominous curses, which are asserted to deter away any person who might be inclined to call into question the gift, or remove or damage the stone.

In this text Amenemope instructs his young son in the prosper conduct and mindset of the ideal man.  He is to be generous, contended, confidential, self-controlled, conciliatory toward his superiors and honoring to this god.

Scholars have found striking parallels to the Teaching of Amenemope in the Book of Proverbs, especially in chapters 22 and 23.  Chapter 1 of Amenemope begins with an injunction similar to that in Proverbs 2:2 to give one’s ear to wisdom and one’s heart to understanding (cf. 22:17).

Both works warn against illegally expanding one’s property by moving the boundary stones demarcating the border of a field (Amenemope, VII.11-14; Prov 22:2, robbing the poor (Amenemope, IV.4-5; Prov 22:22), associating with hot-tempered persons (Amenemope, XI.12-14; Prov 22:24-25), being gluttonous at the table of an official (Amenemope, XXIII.13-20; Prov 23:1-3) and eating the food of a hoarder (Amenemope XV.9-12; Prov 23:6-8.

Both point out the propensity of riches to sprout wings and fly away like birds (Amenemope X.4-5; Prov 23:4-5) and note that a person’s reputation is more valuable than wealth (Amenemope XVII.11-12; Prov 22:1), that the skilled will service rulers (Amenemope XXVII.5-10; Prov 22:9).

In fact, many scholars propose that Amenemope’s division into 30 chapters is referred to in the original Hebrew version of verse 20.

It is quite possible that the writer of these proverbs incorporated wisdom material from other sources, such as Amenemope, when compiling his work.  This does not negate the inspired nature of the Biblical text, however.  The compiler of Proverbs was able to make sue of those elements of foreign wisdom literature that demonstrated proper morality and justice, while maintaining that true wisdom always begin with the “fear of the Lord” (1:7).