1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.
“Wines is a mocker, strong drink is raging” – those who overindulge become mockers and brawlers
(see Hos 7:5). Proverbs associates drunkenness with poverty (23:20-21), strife (23:29-30) and injustice (31:4-5).
“deceived” – the person who becomes drunk (see Gen 9:21; Is 28:7).
2 The fear of a
king is as the roaring of a lion: whoso provoketh him to anger sinneth against his own soul.
3 It is an honor for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling.
“will be meddling” – the fool is quarrelsome and argumentative (see 6:14; 17:14, 19; 18:6).
4 The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.
5 Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.
“Counsel” – refers to “plans” or “motives” behind the plans (cf 16:1-2).
“deep water” – see cf 18:4.
“will draw it out” – as if from a well.
6 Most men will proclaim everyone his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?
“goodness” – or his loyalty.
“a faithful man who can find?” – cf, Ecc 7:28-29).
7 The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.
8 A king that sitteth in the throne of Judgment scattereth away all evil with his eyes.
9 Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?
“clean…pure from my sin” – no one is without sin (cf Job 14:4; Rom 3:23) – but those whose sins have been forgiven have “clean hands and a pure heart” (Ps 24:4; see also 51:1-2, 9-10).
10 Divers weights, and divers measures, both of them are alike abomination to the LORD.
11 Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.
12 The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them.
13 Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread.
14 It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer: but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth.
“naught…naught” – prices were often agreed upon by bargaining, so the buyer is questioning the quality of the article in order to buy it more cheaply.
15 There is gold, and a multitude of rubies: but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.
“gold…rubies” – earlier, wisdom itself was valued more highly than gold or jewels (3:14-15; 8:10-11).
16 Take his garment that is surety for a stranger: and take a pledge of him for a strange woman.
“Take his garment” – a garment could be taken as security for a debt (Deut 24:10-13). Anyone who foolishly assumes responsibility for the debt of a stranger, whose reliability is unknown, or of a wayward woman, whose unreliability is known, ought to be held accountable, even to the degree of taking his garment as a pledge.
17 Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel.
“is sweet to a man” – cf, the sweet “bread” prepared by the adulteress in 9:17. Zophar observes that evil is sweet in the mouth of a wicked man, but it turns sour in his stomach (Job 20:12-18).
18 Every purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war.
19 He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.
20 Whoso curseth his father or his mother, his lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness.
“curseth his father or his mother” – punishable by death (see Lev 20:9; cf Prov 30:11, 17).
“lamp shall be put out” – he will die.
21 An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning; but the end thereof shall not be blessed.
“An inheritance may be gotten hastily…shall not be blessed” – cf 19:26; cf, also the sad experience of the son who “wasted his substance with riotous living” (Lk 15:12-13).
22 Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the LORD, and he shall save thee.
“I will recompense evil” – vengeance was God’s prerogative. He would repay the wicked for their actions (see Deut 32:35; Ps 94:1).
“wait on the LORD” – see
Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD (Ps 27:14).
Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it (37:34).
23 Divers weights are an abomination unto the LORD; and a false balance is not good.
24 Man’s goings are of the LORD; how can a man then understand his own way?
25 It is a snare to the man who devoureth that which is holy, and after vows to make enquiry.
“It is a snare…that which is holy” – Lit. “It is a snare for a man to vow rashly.” The vow was a promise to make a special gift to the Lord if He answered an earnest request (see Lev 27:1-25; Deut 23:21; Jdg 11:30-31, 34-35; 1 Sam 1:11). Sometimes such a vow was made hastily and was not carried out (cf, Ecc 5:4-6).
26 A wise king scattereth the wicked, and bringeth the wheel over them.
“bringeth the wheel” – the wheel of the threshing cart that separated the grain from the husk (cf, Is 28:27-28). The wicked will be separated from the righteous and duly punished (see Ps 1:5-6).
27 The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly.
“The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD” – the soul of man has a God-consciousness and moral awareness of right and wrong. Cf, Rom 2:14-15.
28 Mercy and truth preserve the king: and his throne is upholden by mercy.
“Mercy and truth preserve the king…mercy” – Kindness and moral uprightness endear a king to his people and encourage them to be loyal subjects (cf 3:3; 14:22; 16:12; 29:14).
29 The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the gray head.
30 The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.
“blueness of a wound” – the bruises caused by a beating as the punishment for a crime. Stern punishment is necessary to restrain evil. Several verses refer to fools whose backs are beaten (10:13; 14:3; 19:29, but even then, because they are fools, they may not change their ways (cf, 17:10; 27:22).
The Instructions of Anii
A number of ancient texts are described as “wisdom literature” in that they give the reader advice on how to live a prudent life.
Some have similarities to Proverbs, illustrating that the quest for virtue was a widespread phenomenon in the ancient
near East. These include the instruction of Anii (also spelled “Any”), a writing that dates to Egypt’s 18th Dynasty.
The text purports to have been written by the scribe Anii and is set in the context of the Egyptian middle class. Like the book of Proverbs, Anii:
Exhors the reader to avoid beer drinking and warns about the disgrace the public drunkenness (see Prov 20:1).
Asserts that an individual should avoid the company of brawlers and violent men (cf. v. 22).
Warns the reader to stay away from the “strange woman,” the prostitute or adulteress (vv. 23-36).
Not surprisingly, many of the other admonitions in Anii are unlike those Proverbs. For example, Anii exhorts the reader to maintain the external, formal devotion the gods demand (making sacrifices, showing obeisance before idols, etc.), but in a perfunctory piety of Proverbs. Anii also has some pleasant advice on domestic life, such as a warning for husbands not to fail to show appreciation for their wive’s management of household affairs.
A curiosity of Anii is that it ends with a debate between Anii and his son Khonshotep, who complains that few people are able to maintain the virtuous life Anii prescribes. Anii counters that even a beast cab be taught; Khonshotep’s excuse will not stand.