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
9:10.

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 conti nual 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).