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).