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
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.
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).