The Book of Proverbs
Chapter 16 can be broken down into 4 main sections;
- 1-11, The Sovereignty of God Explained.
- 12-15, A Ruler’s Authority as an Example of God’s Authority.
- 16-25, The Sovereignty of the Word of God in our Lives.
- 26-31, God’s Admonition of the Fool, vs. 26-31, and Endorsement of the Wise, vs. 31-32.
Finally, vs. 33 provides a conclusion to the chapter reminding us once again of the main point, the Sovereignty of God, which encapsulates the entire chapter with all of its subtopic as being under the authority of God.
Vs. 1-11, The Sovereignty of God Explained.
In vs. 1-3 we will see the Lord’s sovereign rule through human participation, and in vs. 5-7 His sovereign justice in response to human morality.
Vs. 4 will tie together vs. 1-3 and 5-7, asserting that the Lord works out everything to its appropriate destiny, and that He matches the wicked with calamity.
We will see in this section that God’s sovereignty applies to human initiative that pertains to both human speech, MA’ANEH and human work, MA’ASEH.
Our human thoughts are represented in these passages by the words or phrases: “Arranging ideas,” vs. 1a; “Motives – heart / spirit”, vs. 1, 5, 9; “Opinion in our own sight,” vs. 2a; “Plans / thoughts,” vs. 3b.
Our human behavior is represented by the words: “Ways”, vs. 2, 7, 9a; “Works / deeds,” vs. 3; “Steps,” vs. 9b.
God’s sovereignty is indicated by the key words: “Establish / direct,” vs. 3, 9; “Answer” vs. 1, 4.
Prov 16:1, “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.”
“The plans of the heart” is a compound word from MA’ARKAK, מַעֲרָךְ, LEB, לֵב, (heart).
MA’ARKAK is derived from the verb ARAK that means, “to arrange, or to set up,” this noun is translated “plan, or consideration.” It means, “direction” in Middle Hebrew, and was often used for military formation. It occurs only here in its plural construct form, and refers to the aspirations and considerations that come from the heart of man; therefore, we translate it, “the preparations of the heart.” These preparations, “belong to man”, ADAM, meaning human beings.
Then we have, “But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.”
“The Lord” is YHWH, יְהָוה representing the Trinity of God.
“The answers of the tongue” MA’ANEH LASHON represents our “preparations of the heart” being put into actions, where our actions belong to God and His sovereign plan for our lives. Utilizing MA’ANEH here limits the “answers of the tongue,” to good and effective utterance, the apt answer, because God does not author evil and/or ineffective answers. Evil answers come from the sin nature.
This verse tells us that even though man has free will volition to make good decisions, their outcome is part of the overall plan of God and His Divine Decree. It tells us that God’s Sovereignty, working in conjunction with His Omniscience, from eternity past looked down the corridors of human history, and knowing every decision and action we would make, God then took them and entered them into His overall Plan for human history, His “Divine Decree,” working them out to accomplish His will and plan for our lives.
1 Cor 3:6-7, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”
Prov 16:9, “The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.”
Prov 19:21, “Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the LORD will stand.”
Prov 16:2, “All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the LORD weighs the motives.
This verse tells us of the Lord’s Sovereignty to judge our works, based on His estimation of the motives behind our words and deeds; whereby, He determines which to ratify or veto.
As Waltke notes, “The human beings form, the Lord performs; they devise, he verifies; they formulate, he validates; they propose, he disposes. They design what they will say and do, but the Lord decrees what will endure and form part of his eternal purposes.”
“Clean” is the Adjective ZAK, זַךְ that means, “pure, clean or clear.” In its seven uses in the wisdom literature, it refers to ethical purity. It is used figuratively here for the purity or righteousness of our “ways” DEREK, meaning our daily walk or life. We would say our Experiential Sanctification.
But this verse tells us that in the arrogance of our souls, we believe everything we think and do is correct and righteous, i.e., in our deluded opinion, Prov 3:7; cf. Job 11:4; 33:9; Jer 17:9.
Yet in reality, “The Lord weighs the motives.”
“Weighs” is the Qal Active Verb TAKAN תָּכַן that means, “to examine, assess or evaluate by examining and comparing to a standard.” Cf. Prov 21:2.
“Motives” is the Noun RUACH that means, “spirit,” and here a man’s spirit, the place and basis for making decisions.
Therefore, the determination of our actions as being holy and righteous is the Sovereign judgment of the Lord, Jer 17:10; 1 Sam 16:7. He determines whether our actions are truly righteous or not.
At the BEMA seat of Jesus Christ, 1 Cor 3:10-15; 2 Cor 5:10, He will determine which works the believer performed were righteous and rewardable, “gold, silver and precious gems,” or worthless, “wood, hay and straw.”
Jer 17:9-10, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? 10I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.” Cf. Prov 12:15; 14:12; 16:25.
So what are we to do? The best we can do is to commit all our ways to God and faith-rest in Him, His Word and His Spirit to make our motives and ways pleasing to Him, Prov 16:3, 7; cf. Psa 19:12; 139:23-24; 1 Cor 4:5; Heb 4:12-13.
1 Cor 4:5, “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.”
Likewise, if we cannot judge our own motives, how much more should we not judge others, Mat 7:1?
In addition, at the Great White Throne judgment of all unbelievers, Rev 20:11-15, the Lord will judge their works and show that they were not sufficient to earn their salvation.
Here we have the exhortation.
Prov 16:3, “Commit your works to the LORD and your plans will be established.” Compare Psa 55:2; Prov 3:6.
“Commit” is actually the Hebrew Qal Imperative Verb GALAL that means, “roll.” It is used metaphorically to mean, “trust or commit,” cf. Psa 22:8, (a prophecy of our Lord’s abuse while hanging on the Cross); Psa 37:5.
It means here that we are to take all of our problems, difficulties and decision and roll them up onto the Lord and leave them in His loving hands and care.
1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your cares / anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”
Therefore, when you trust in the Lord to lead you in all of your works, (MA’ASEH – works / deeds) “your plans will be established,” cf. Prov 4:26. In other words, God will approve of them, which also renders them rewardable for eternity. This means we are operating with the two power options for the Church Age, the Word of God and the Filling of the Holy Spirit. When we function in faith by His Word and Spirit, we will be walking in His righteousness, producing the Fruit of the Spirit / Divine Good, which is rewardable in time and eternity.
Waltke notes, “Since the Lord assumes ownership of the disciple’s initiatives (v. 1) and he alone can evaluate the purity of the motives behind them (v. 2), the disciple should commit his planned deeds to the Lord (v. 3) to establish them permanently as part of his history, Psa 127. (And if you do), What you think in your inner creations will become overt historical events as enduring as the elements of the Lord’s cosmos.” (New International Commentary.) (Bold mine.)
Psa 127:1, “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain.”
Prov 16:4, “The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil.”
“Has made” is the Qal Perfect Verb PA’AL that means, “to make, practice or commit.” So we could say, “the Lord has committed everything for its own purpose.”
“Purpose” is the noun, MA’ANEH, מַעֲנֶה that is only used here in the OT and is derived from ANAH, which generally means, “to answer,” but also has a distinct meaning, “to be troubled.” It has an Arabic cognate which means, “sense or meaning.” So MA’ANEH comes to means “purpose,” and eludes to “evil purposes” that ties in with the second half of this verse. We could also say, “this is God’s answer to evil.’
The first half of this verse recalls the Lord’s Sovereignty over everything, and the second half tells us that His sovereign rule commits evil to evil. Remember God did not create, nor does He sanction evil, but in His permissive will He allows evil.
“Even though God hates sin, for reasons not revealed to us, sin is present by His permission. Sin must be within God’s eternal plan (or God would not be sovereign) in some way in which He is not the author of it (or God could not be holy).” (Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology.)
Here the Lord has placed in His Decree the results of evil to fall on those who commit evil, i.e., “even the wicked (RASHA) for the day of evil (RA’AH).” It is the reap what you sow principle.
So this verse looks back to vs. 1-3, regarding the sovereignty of God to judge evil plans, and it also looks forward to vs. 5-7 regarding God’s judgment on the wicked themselves.
Therefore, in contrast to the righteous whose plans and deeds are confirmed and rewarded by God, the wicked and their deeds will be destroyed.
The Sovereignty of God is one of His many attributes, which make up the essence of God, as we can know and understand Him. Being wholly inadequate, man’s conception of God is measured by characteristics which the Bible attributes to Him. The Bible presents a revelation which, though limited by the restrictions that language imposes, is of a Person, and this revelation attributes to Him exalted qualities. These qualities attributed to Him are called “attributes.” The attributes of God present a theme so vast and complex and so beyond the range of finite understanding that any attempt to classify them should only be approximate as to accuracy or completeness. Each attribute, ascribed to God is shared by each individual member of the Trinity equally, infinitely and eternally.
Though not all inclusive, the 10 Major Attributes, which the Bible ascribes to the Triune God that make up His Essence, includes:
- Eternal Life
Other attributes like unity, life, light, self-existent, immensity, infinity, holy, goodness, mercy, grace, faithful, sensibility, will, freedom, etc. can also be ascribed to Him by what the Scriptures reveal about Him. In your own studies you may also find various break downs of the attributes of God, like “constitutional and characterizing,” “absolute and relative,” “essential and moral,” etc. These tend to categorize the attributes of God that are specific to Him, compared to those that can also be found in His creation, or in relation to His creation.
Definition: L.S. Chafer in His “Systematic Theology” defines God’s sovereignty as follows:
- The sovereignty of God is discerned in the absolute manner in which all things have been assigned their respective places in creation, in appointing to men their day and generation as well as the bounds of their habitation, and in the exercise of saving grace. Cf. 1 Sam 2:6-8; 1 Chron 29:11-12; Mat 6:13.
- The authority of God is displayed in the fact that things which were only possible were not allowed by Him to become actual. In relation to existing things, God is in absolute authority, which may arise from one or more of certain affiliations.
- He is Creator and His dominion is perfect and final. He is free to dispose of His creation as He will; but His will, as has been seen, is wholly guided by the true and benevolent features of His Person.
- All majesty and glory belong to God. All material things are His by the most absolute ownership. Men hold property by rights which are only temporary and permitted by God. Psa 50:10, “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.”
- The authority of God is established over the redeemed by the purchase which redemption has brought about. He is in authority over those among the redeemed who willingly yield their lives to Him.
Sovereign means principal, chief, or supreme. It speaks of God’s position; He is the chief Being in the universe, and also of His power; He is supreme in power in the universe. As the Supreme Ruler of the universe, King of the heavens and earth, He is absolute authority and will.
Scripture regarding God’s Sovereignty.
- God is the Supreme Being of the universe. Deut 4:39; 1 Sam 2:6-8; 1 Chron 29:11-12; 2 Chron 20:6; Psa 83:18; Acts 17:24; Heb 6:13
- He is the King of heaven and earth. Psa 47:2, 7; Psa 93:1; Mat 6:13; Heb 8:1; Rev 4:2-3
- God has absolute will and does as He pleases. Job 9:12; Psa 115:3; 135:6; Prov 21:1; Dan 4:35; 1 Cor 12:11
- God is a perfect gentleman He will never coerce the volition He has given to the human race. John 7:17
- The meeting place between God’s absolute will and free will of man is the Cross. John 3:36; 2 Peter 3:9; Rev 22:17
- God has a sovereign plan for mankind.
- Phase One – Salvation. Psa 24; Acts 16:31; John 1:12
- Phase Two – Believer’s life, Christian walk in time, filled with the Holy Spirit, and the daily intake of Bible Doctrine. Eph 5:18; 2 Tim 2:15-16
- Phase Three – Eternity. 2 Cor 5:8-10
The sovereignty of God is His eternal, infinite and perfect Divine volition.
- His eternal and infinite will is expressed in the Divine decrees.
- It is manifest in the comprehensive Divine interpretation of history called dispensations.
- It is shown in the unique plan regarding the Church Age.
- It is revealed to us in His Predesigned Protocol Plan, Eph 1:11, “In Him also, we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.”
“God has a plan, Acts 15:18, which is all-inclusive, Eph1:11, which He controls, Psa 135:6, which includes but does not involve Him in evil, Prov 16:4, and which ultimately is for the praise of His glory, Eph 1:14.”(Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology.)
In human History, the sovereignty of God and the free will of man coexist by Divine decree. The sovereignty of God made a decision to create a counterpart to His sovereignty, a free will in every person for function during human history as a part of the Angelic Conflict.
His Sovereignty is defined by perfection, self‑determination and virtue, which characterizes His purpose, design and execution.
Prov 16:5, “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; assuredly, he will not be unpunished. “
This verse speaks of our Lord’s Sovereignty in regard to His discipline for His children in reversionism, and His wrath towards the unbeliever. This is another “abomination (TO’EBAH) to the Lord” passage, Prov 3:32; 6:16; 8:7; 11:1, 20; 12:22; 13:19; 15:8-9, 26.
“The proud in heart” GABOAH גּבֹהַּ, LEB, speaks of those with self-righteous arrogance within their soul and defines the “wicked” of vs. 4, just as, “will not be unpunished” defines the “evil day” of vs. 4, indicating that the arrogant will not escape God’s Sovereign punitive judgment.
“He will not be unpunished” is literally in the Hebrew, “hand to hand, or he will not be innocent,” in the Passive Niphal Imperfect. In other words, it literally describes a spanking for the guilty sinner.
Therefore, our Lord has sovereignty to discipline the arrogant believer and bring His wrath towards the unbeliever, cf. Prov 11:20-21, as they are always characterized as arrogant because of their rejection of Jesus Christ as their Savior.
Prov 16:6, “By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one keeps away from evil.”
The first half of this verse speaks to God’s grace and love, which culminates in the absolute truth that God has provided for the atonement, (KAPHAR in the intensive passive Pual Imperfect), of everyone’s sins through the Cross of Jesus Christ, thereby providing a pardon to all who would believe.
This is the reason the “proud in heart” of vs. 5, will not go unpunished. Their atonement has been made by God, their sins have been paid for by Jesus Christ on the Cross. But due to their self-righteous arrogance, they reject the Cross of Jesus Christ and reject their atonement, which only leaves the Eternal Lake of Fire for their destiny.
The second half “fear of the Lord” identifies those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior by having been obedient to God’s Word that says, “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31.
For those who have accepted Christ as Savior, they have received the atonement and pardon of their sins and will be spared the future Eternal Lake of Fire, i.e., “kept away from evil.”
Likewise, for those who have received Christ as their Savior, they are also kept away from further evil in time when they are obedient to the application of God’s Word in their daily lives.
Therefore, we can say that the first half of this verse is a remedy for past sins and providing Positional Sanctification, and the second half is a remedy for future sins providing for Experiential Sanctification; both were paid for and made possible at the Cross of Jesus Christ.
Prov 16:7, “When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
“Ways pleasing (RATSAH) to the Lord” means we are walking in righteousness, having been saved and walking in our experiential sanctification utilizing the two power options of God’s Word and the Filling of God the Holy Spirit to lead us post-salvation.
This passage encompasses both victories noted in vs. 5; our victory over past sins for salvation and being in heaven absent from sin and evil (“our enemies”) for all of eternity because of the Cross of Jesus Christ, (this is our positional sanctification), as well as victory over our post salvation sins (“our enemies”), through our daily walk in the Spirit, i.e., our experiential sanctification, when we utilize 1 John 1:9 and the two power options, which too are made possible by the Cross of Jesus Christ.
Waltke notes that the use of the Hiphal stem, (causative active voice), in the phrase “makes his enemies, (AYAN – those hostile), to be at peace, (SHALAM), with him,” means “they are caused to surrender to.” In other words, they are defeated. Therefore, this verse speaks of God’s Sovereignty to bless His children by giving them victory over sin, both positionally and experientially, when they apply faith.
Therefore, sin and evil have been defeated at the Cross of Jesus Christ which can be appropriated by:
- The unbeliever through faith in Jesus by applying John 3:16, or Acts 16:31.
- The believer by faith in applying 1 John 1:9 to confess his post-salvation sins.
We do not defeat sin on our own for positional or experiential sanctification; only the Cross of Jesus Christ can defeat sin for our multiple sanctifications.
Prov 16:8, “Better is a little with righteousness than great income with injustice.”
“Great income” is the nouns ROB for abundance, and TEBUAH that means, “produce or grain.” In an agricultural society, an abundance of produce or grain meant much wealth or income.
“With injustice” is Preposition BE for “with,” and the particle LO for “not,” and the noun MISHPAT, מִשְׁפָּט that means, “Judgment, justice or ordinances.” This word is also used in Prov 16:10, 11 & 33.
Because this word is related to the application of Bible Doctrine and the judgment people are to make from having God’s Word resident within their soul, (e.g., the Judges of Israel), it means, “justice.” So it means to apply Bible Doctrine to the decisions you make in life. This word is also used for the Lord’s government in the Millennium, Isa 42:3f.
But here it is with the negative LO for “not,” and means, injustice, which means to make decisions that are absent of God’s Word being taken into consideration; they are counter to God’s will and word, and therefore are unfair and unjust.
Therefore, it is “better to have a little,” (i.e., only what you need to get by each day), and have the righteousness of God flowing through your soul, than to have tremendous wealth and live in an unjust way that is absent of God’s Word in your life. It is better to have a little of this world’s wealth and to have the Sovereignty of God ruling in your life, than to have great cosmic wealth, yet be without the Sovereignty of God ruling in your life.
Wealth can be obtained legally and in morally upright ways, but if the choice is between wealth through wrongdoing and doing what is right despite the consequences, the latter – the pursuit of justice – is always wiser, since justice is demanded by the Word of God and is also blessed by God.
And finally, in essence, this verse qualifies the assertions in vs. 5-7 of Divine punishment on the arrogant and blessings on the virtuous. Cf. Prov 15:16.
Prov 16:9, “The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.”
This is similar to vs. 1, but here the “answers of the tongue,” is changed to “directs his steps.” As vs. 1 spoke of God’s sovereignty over our words, here we see His sovereignty over our actions. It completes the topic of thoughts “that belong to man” becoming part of God’s Divine Decree when they become overt actions, verbal or physical.
The principle is: We have free will to make decisions in life, but once they become actions, they become part of God’s Divine Decree based on His foreknowledge.
“The mind” is actually LEB once again that literally means, “heart” but actually means the right lobe of your soul, the place where you make decisions.
“Plans” is the Piel Imperfect for ongoing intensive action, of the verb CHASHAB, that means, “to regard, to devise, to think,” see Prov 6:3, 18. It is a poetic word used for the result of the human thought process in strategizing that brings forth an action.
“His ways” DEREK extends this passage from simply being our words in vs. 1, to our entire lifestyle, view and behavior, which is noted in the second half of this passage.
Then we have “but the LORD directs his steps,” which means that our actions are part of the Sovereign will of God, either His Directive, Permissive or Overruling will.
“The Lord” is YHWH, telling us of the Sovereign One.
“Directs” is the Hiphil Imperfect of KUN, also used in vs. 3, which means, “caused to keep on establishing or preparing.”
“Steps” is the noun TSA’ADH. In the masculine it means, “step, marching pace or metaphorically speaking, way.” It is similar to the Greek STOICHEO of Gal 5:23, where we are commanded to “walk by the Spirit,” that is, to march in lockstep with His commands. So TSA’ADH here has a similar meaning but from the God’s point of view, where He establishes or oversees our steps, i.e., the daily decisions we make to move to action.
Combined we have, “The Lord keeps on establishing our steps,” which reminds us of the mandate of vs. 3. This suggests that not one step is taken in our lives apart from the Lord’s superintendence.
Waltke quotes McKane, saying, “A man may plan his road to the last detail, but he cannot implement his planning, unless it coincides with Yahweh’s plan for him. He is deluded if he supposes that he has unfettered control and can impose his will on every situation without limitation in order to make his plan a reality, for it is.” (McKane, Proverbs, pp. 495f.; as quoted in the New International Commentary).
This verse shows us the contrast between what we actually plan and what actually happens; God determines the latter.
Prov 16:10, “A divine decision is in the lips of the king; his mouth should not err in judgment.”
This verse serves to introduce the next section, vs. 12-15, while also reminding us that the sovereignty of God affects not just the common man, but those in positions of authority too.
“Divine decision” is the Hebrew noun QESEM, קֶסֶם that means, “divination.” It is used mostly in the negative sense of trying to determine the future in false ways, i.e., predictions, forecast or foretelling, that were outlawed by God, cf. Duet 18:10; Num 22:7; Ezek 21:21. But here it means God’s sovereign decisions regarding future actions that will be.
It means that even what a king / leader (MELEK) speaks (SAPHAH) becomes a part of God’s Divine Decree. Therefore, the decisions that a king or leader makes from his free will volition is part of God’s Plan for all those who are involved or impacted by that decision.
Then we have “His mouth (PEH) should not err (LO MA’AL) in judgment (BE MISPHAT).”
MA’AL means, “to act unfaithfully, to be disloyal.” The nuance of the verb in Biblical Hebrew is the concept of violating legal obligations. With the negative LO attached, and in the Qal Imperfect, it means, “to continually not violate legal obligations.” In other words, to make good, sound, righteous, and just decisions.
“The king was obliged to uphold justice because, as the court of final appeal, he determined the standard of justice for the land, Prov 29:4, 12.” (Fredric Clarke Putnam, Complete Biblical Library Commentary).
Therefore, it means here that the king “must not act unfaithfully” in regard to the laws of his land and toward God and His Word. It is the principal of Luke 12:48b, “To whom much is given, much is required.” The leader of a people, who was placed in that position of authority by the sovereignty of God, Rom 13:1, is obligated to act righteously and justly in all his decision making authority.
Likewise, we see that the Lord enacts His Divine justice, cf. Prov 16:1, by inspiring His wise king to give infallible verdicts that do not betray justice. And when the wise ruler acts faithfully, he becomes a type of Jesus Christ, cf. John 5:19-30, and is a witness of God’s Divine sovereignty, righteousness and justice.
Prov 16:11, “A just balance and scales belong to the LORD; all the weights of the bag are His concern.”
Here we see the same principle as in vs. 10, but related to the business man or woman, and business dealings in general, even those of a state or nation.
We previously noted this principle in Prov 11:1. There we saw how a false balance or, in other words, cheating in business practices is an abomination to the Lord, yet just weights or righteous business transactions, bring Him joy. Cf. Prov 20:10, 23.
Here we see that “a just (MISPHAT) balance (MOZEN) and scales (PELES) belong to the Lord (YHWH).”
MOZEN was also used in Prov 11:1, but PELES is used only here and in Isa 40:12, where it speaks of the sovereignty of God related to His creation.
Isa 40:12, “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and marked off the heavens by the span, and calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, and weighed the mountains in a balance and the hills in a pair of scales?”
Together, MOZEN and PELES stand symbolically for all business transactions. Therefore, we see that when people function righteously and justly in their business transactions, it is part of God’s Divine decree and His directive will. But when they function in sin dishonestly, it is part of His permissive will and also added to His Divine decree, yet as an abomination to Him, Prov 11:1; 20:10, 23.
This is reemphasized in the second half of this verse that says, “all (KOL) the weights (EBEN, stones/weights as in Prov 11:1) of the bag (KIS, cf. Prov 1:14) are His concern (MA’ASEH, מַעֲשֶׂה).”
MA’ASEH, מַעֲשֶׂה, is a noun, as we noted in vs. 3, that literally means, “work or deed” and primarily means, “that which is done or made.” It addresses the results of an action rather than the action itself. So we could say, “all the weights of the bag he has made,” speaking of His sovereignty over business transactions.
“The Lord is the source of honesty and justice in all human enterprises.” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary)
Therefore, it tells us that the Sovereignty of God has ordained the just and righteous business transactions from eternity past, but we also see that He is not the author of falsehoods, cheating, stealing, or lying in business transactions, even though it happens frequently. He desires righteousness and justices, yet hates the liar and thief.
Section 2, Vs. 12-15, A Ruler’s Authority as an Example of God’s Sovereign Authority.
In this section, the king stands as a type of God being a sovereign ruler as shown by the many ways vs 1-11 and 12-15 are bound together, and by the fact that the Lord could be inserted wherever “king” is found. Each saying regarding the “king” demonstrates an aspect of God’s character as the Sovereign One.
If we include vs. 10-11, with vs. 12-15, we see that these six verses fall into three quatrains, each with a unique topic:
- His responsibility to give just verdicts, 10-11.
- His moral sensibilities toward justice, 12-13.
- His legal authority to effect life and death, 14-15.
In each verse where the word “king” is translated, the Hebrew noun MELEK, מֶלֶךְ is found in the original. This word is one of the most common in the OT, used over 2,500 times and in many biblical contexts. This term is simply a general term, denoting an individual with power and authority. It is used for a town or tribal chieftain, the ruler of a people, the king of a country such as Pharaoh, or for the ruler of an empire; an emperor with vassal kings ruling under him, cf. Jer 46:2. Therefore, these edicts found in Proverbs regarding a king are pertinent for all governing officials and ruling authorities: selectmen, mayors, governors, presidents, congressmen, and senators.
In addition, in pagan worship, as Satan’s scheme to mock God, the worshipers of idols attribute MELEK with its connotations to their idols, Isa 8:21; Amos 5:26.
MELEK most importantly is used for God Himself, as He is the eternal King, Psa 10:16; 98:6; the King over the gods of other nations, Psa 95:3; the King over all the earth, Psa 47:7, and even the “Great King,” Mal 1:14.
Therefore, we should recognize Him not only as our God but also as our King, Psa 68:24; 74:12; Isa 44:6; Jer 10:10; 1 Tim. 1:17, especially since we in the Church Age are a “Royal Family” unto God, 1 Peter 2:9.
Psa 74:12, “Yet God is my king from of old, who works deeds of deliverance in the midst of the earth.”
Isa 44:6, “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me.”
Jer 10:10, “But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure His indignation.”
1 Tim 1:17, “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”
There is little sense of democracy in the O.T.; nevertheless, the king was given his rulership authority by Divine right, Prov 8:15, Rom 13:1, not by vote of the people. This is also seen by the fact that the first king of Israel, Saul, was not dynastic, but God chose his successor in David.
Rom 13:1-2, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.”
In addition, God does not only ordain good and righteous kings who rule through legitimate means, but in His sovereign and permissive will He allows for a ruler’s, and the people’s, free will; whereby, that ruler may be evil or good, e.g., Manasseh in 2 Kings. 21:11, compared to Hezekiah in 2 Chron 31:20. Therefore, God ordains all rulers for the position they hold even though He hates the evil performed by the wicked ruler and is pleased with the righteousness of the just ruler, Prov 16:12-13.
The king was expected to maintain social order, maintain and deploy armed forces for national security, provide and supervise an administrative bureaucracy, and they were responsible for the distribution of food in times of scarcity. As we will note here, the king was expected to reign justly, cf. 2 Chron 9:8, and serve in a judicial role, 2 Kings 25:6.
All of these expectations can be found in the descriptions of the ideal, messianic King of Israel’s future, the Lord Jesus Christ, in Isa 32:1; Jer 23:5; Zech 9:9.
Many Psalms were written for and regarding the righteous king, Psa 2; 18; 20; 21; 45; 72; 89; 101; 132; 144. In these Psalms many aspects of the relationship between the Lord and the MELEK of Israel are given, which have application for rulers today.
It is also interesting to note that very powerful ancient kings were bound by certain laws, cf. Dan 6:12, just as the sovereignty of God is bound by His other attributes including His righteousness, justice and love, (i.e., His grace and mercy.)
We begin with the king’s moral sensibilities toward justice, vs. 12-13.
Prov 16:12, “It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness, for a throne is established on righteousness.”
MELEK here and in vs. 13 is in the plural, where this verse implicitly compares the role and standards of successful kings/rulers to that of the Lord, who considers the wicked an abomination, Prov 15:9, 26; 16:5; 17:15.
In the first half of this verse, we see that God detests kings who “commit wickedness,” which is ASAH in the Qal Infinitive with RESHA that means, “wickedness,” but has the sense of “wrong or guilt.” In other words, these are kings who consistently operate in sin and evil and make decisions that are such as well.
The reason God hates this is because He has “established,” (KUN in the simple passive Hiphal Imperfect for ongoing action), these positions of authority, (throne – KISSE, כִּסֵּא), for “righteousness,” (TSEDEQ), meaning it reflects God’s righteousness for the good of the people.
KUN has the basic root meaning of “to bring something into order” with an expectation of certainty or permanence. Therefore, by means of operating in the righteousness of God consistently, a ruler’s authority will last and prosper. God does not desire evil to fall upon people, but desires that they live in freedom and righteousness. Therefore, the reign of a king/ruler is established as secure, meaning it will last and prosper, 1 Sam 20:31; 2 Sam 7:16, 26; 1 Kings 2:12, 45f; 1 Chron 17:14, 24; Prov 16:12; 25:5; 29:14, and so will the people, (e.g., the congregation of Israel in Jer 30:20), because the ruler is operating consistently in righteousness and justice – the Divine attributes of God. Cf. Prov 20:28; 25:5; 29:14; Deut 17:18ff; Isa 16:5; Psa 89:15; 92:2; 97:2.
“The king was God’s vice-regent, ruling under the Covenant (Deut. 17:18ff). His primary responsibility; therefore, was to administer justice by condemning the wicked (cf. 20:8, 26; 2 Sam. 23:3f). To join in their wickedness, whether it was physical, financial or legal, was to deny his role and break the Covenant (cf. 25:5; 29:4, 12, 14).” (Complete Biblical Library Commentary)
Prov 16:13, “Righteous lips are the delight of kings, and he who speaks right is loved.
Here we see righteousness (TSEDEQ) on the part of the people of the ruler. In order for a government to work well it must have people who also operate in the righteousness of God.
“To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea (a plan not achievable).” James Madison, 4th President of the United States, (Bold mine)
It is a “delight,” (RATSON – favor, pleasure,) to rulers, as it is to God, when rulers see their people “speaking,” SAPHAH, (i.e., operating) in the principles of righteousness and justice; principles found in the Word of God and the laws of the land.
The second half of this verse compliments the first half, where “speaks” is DABAR and the one who speaks “right” YASHAR, “straight, reliable, upright, or level,” is “loved,” AHAB.
Therefore, not only do rulers received joy and happiness when their people operate in righteousness, but they also have love towards those counselors who give them sound and wise advice, Prov 14:7, 35; 29:12, and do not merely tell them what they want to hear.
People who are honest and candid are valuable to rulers and leaders, without such, their authority would become anarchic. So this verse also warns kings that they ought to prefer truthful, thoughtful advice and counselors that are wise in God’s Word, just as we all should.
You are only as wise as that by which you surround yourself with!
Once again in this verse, the king images God; He is pleased with those who operate consistently in righteousness; just as He detests those that operate consistently in wicked in vs. 12.
Next we note the king’s legal authority to effect life and death, vs. 14-15.
Prov 16:14, “The wrath of a king is as messengers of death, but a wise man will appease it.”
Here we first see what happens when we get on the wrong side of the law, “the wrath (CHEMAH, חֵמָה) of a king (MELEK) is a messenger (MALAK, מַלְאָךְ messenger or angel) of death (MAWETH).”
The wrath here is his legitimate or righteous anger toward those that break the law or do evil. It is his sovereign authority to bring punitive judgment against them. This tells us that when we get on the wrong side of righteousness, (break the law), the king has sovereignty over our lives, Prov 20:2; just as God is sovereign over our lives.
“The Lord is the ultimate Agent who inflicts death upon the wicked in an unspecified future, and the just king is his immediate agent (see Eccl. 8:4).” (Waltke, New International Commentary)
Then in the second half, we have the contrast, “the wise man (CHAKAM ISH), will appease it (the Active Piel Imperfect of KAPHAR, כָּפַר, that means, “cover it or atone for it”).” In other words, you can appease the righteous anger of your leader and receive an atonement of your sins.
“The wise person (15:31, 32) appeases the king’s wrath against him and/or others (cf. 15:31, 32; 29:8b) through virtues such as humility (15:33), repentance and confession (28:13), renewed community loyalty (16:6), and patience with a gentle answer (15:1; 25:15).” (Ibid)
Prov 16:15, “In the light of a king’s face is life, and his favor is like a cloud with the spring rain.”
This verse speaks of the appeased king who has authority to give and grant life, freedom, prosperity, security, victory, and peace to the people. In the complementary second half, we see the blessings that a king can bestow on his people; just as God bestows blessings to those who walk in His righteousness.
“In the light of a king’s face is life” is a meteorological metaphor to signify the ruler’s beneficent favor toward someone, and represents a smile on his face, indicating his pleasure or love for the righteous.
“Spring rain” continues the meteorological metaphors and is the Hebrew noun MALQOSH, מַלְקוֹשׁ, that means, “late rain” i.e., latter rain that falls in March and April, prior to harvesting cf. 2 Sam 23:3-4; Psa 72:6. Its timing is vital; because this rain matures the fruit and grain, cf. Deut. 11:14.
So we see that these blessing are designed to propel righteousness within the people of the land, providing for their needs, so that they can continue to grow and prosper. Likewise in the spiritual realm, the sovereignty of God blesses those who walk in His righteousness to further their spiritual growth and Divine Good Production so that they can produce more and much fruit, John 15:2, 5.
So in summary, the Author of life (God) mediates life through his just king, whose wrath calls for punitive discipline and potentially subsequent death for those who operate in wickedness and evil, and whose favor calls for blessings and subsequent life, peace and prosperity to further the righteous person’s spiritual growth and production.
Section 3, Vs. 16-25, The Sovereignty of the Word of God in our Lives.
This section pertains to the importance of having the sovereignty of God’s Word / Bible Doctrine ruling your soul. It can be broken down into two halves, vs. 16-19 and vs. 20-25, where each half begins with an exhortation to learn and abide by God’s Word, followed by the benefits of applying Bible Doctrine to your everyday life.
Part 1, Vs. 16-19:
Prov 16:16, “How much better it is to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver.
This section begins with the exhortation that to “buy/acquire wisdom” QANAH CHOKMAH, which stands for Bible Doctrine in the soul, is much better than to acquire “gold” CHARUTS, which stands for the riches and wealth of this world, (i.e., Satan’s cosmic system). This is doubly emphasized in the second half of this passage where it is better to acquire “understanding” BINAH, which stands for Bible doctrine applied from the soul, than to acquire “silver” KESEPH, that also stands for money, (i.e. the wealth of Satan’s cosmic system).
The double emphasis of the second half of this passage is also doubly emphasized by the words “is to be chosen,” which is the passive Niphal Participle of BACHAR, בָּחַר that means, “to choose or select.” It has the idea of a careful choice; the concept of careful, thoughtful choice arising out of actual need. According to this Hebrew verb, what is chosen is what is preferred. In addition, it expresses the specific act of choosing which has eternal significance or consequence.
Being in the Passive, it means we receive the action of carefully choosing Bible doctrine over money. How do we receive the action of making that choice? By having God’s Word in your soul and being filled with the Holy Spirit. These two power options from God will lead you to make the decision to choose for more doctrine at the expense of the riches from this world.
This does not mean that when you choose for God’s Word that you will be poor. It simply means that sometimes in life you have to decide, “am I going to go to church today to learn God’s Word, or work extra hours to make more money,” or, “Am I going to give to the church this week, or go out to dinner,” etc.
It speaks to that in life which truly motivates you: God’s Word or Satan’s wealth? “The choices that lead to one or the other may not be obvious at first, since there is no necessary conflict between wealth and wisdom.” (Complete Biblical Library Commentary)
Therefore, this passage exhorts us to choose for God’s Word over wealth when the two are in opposition to one another. That was the subject of Prov 3:14; and 8:10-11, 19; cf. Eccl 9:16, 18.
With the principle established, we then have several exhortations to help steer us in the right direction of choosing for God’s Word.
Next we have two verses that contrast each other. The first, vs. 17 gives a double exhortation for walking in righteousness, and the second, vs. 18, gives a double warning to not live in arrogance and sin. We begin with the dual exhortation to walk in righteousness.
Prov 16:17, “The highway of the upright is to depart from evil; he who watches his way preserves his life.
This echoes the teachings of Prov 4:10-19.
“Highway” is the noun MESILLAH, מְסִלָּה that literally means, “a paved road.” It is the broad, prepared highway leading unimpeded to life. This is the first and only time this word is used in Proverbs, even though it reads in Prov 15:19b, “But the path of the upright is a highway.” There we had the root for MESILLAH, SALAL.
Here it is used for those who follow a certain path in life called the “upright,” (YASHAR), meaning their righteous conduct based on Bible Doctrine in their soul that “leads away,” (SUR), “from evil,” (MIN RA).
You see the lifestyle of the believer who has chosen God’s Word as the number one priority within their life, turns away from sin, human good and evil, so that they stay on the path of righteousness, (i.e., remain in fellowship with God by means of the filling of God the Holy Spirit). Staying on the path of wisdom requires diligence and constant attention to the choices and decisions you make, being careful to avoid or turn away from every decision that leads off the path of righteousness.
The second half of this verse tells of the benefit of saying “no” to temptation and sin, (i.e., “he who watches his way”), as they “preserve their life,” SHAMAR NEPHESH, which means, “he guards his soul.”
In fact “watches his way” is NATSAR DEREK, which too means, “to guard or preserve his way” (i.e., his daily walk).
Therefore, when we guard our thoughts and actions daily, it has the overall effect of protecting our souls from the corruption of sin and the garbage of Satan’s cosmic system, so that we can continue to serve and glorify God in our lives. Our short term protection of our thoughts and actions has long term protection for our souls.
Next we have the double red flag, (warning), to not live in arrogance and sin.
Prov 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before stumbling.
This is where we get the famous saying, “Pride goeth before the fall.” This is also similar to Prov 11:2a; 18:12a; Jer 50:32.
Prov 11:2, “When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom.”
This verse shifts the focus from our outward ethical behavior noted in vs. 17, to our inner spiritual attitudes, using the negative attitude of arrogance as the object lesson.
“Pride” is GA’ON, גָּאוֹן that here means “pride or arrogance” as in Prov 8:13 for “arrogance” in terms of a “swelling of the head,” and self-proclamation of “excellence, splendor or majesty.” It is thinking you are your own god either overtly or subliminally. Therefore, it is used most often to refer to human pride, and in Ezek 16:49, such pride is called sin.
“Haughty Spirit” is GOBAH, גֹּבַהּ, RUACH, רוּחַ, where in this passage GOBAH means, “arrogance” in terms of self-grandeur.
These forms of arrogance are not simply a disregard for God, but also defiance against Him and His Word, that sometimes is expressed in the mistreatment of the righteous.
Then we have the two negative consequences of our pride and arrogance, “destruction and stumbling.”
“Destruction” is SHEVER, שֶׁבֶר that means, “collapse, ruin, breaking, or shattering,” cf. Isa 1:28. It is used in a metaphorical sense referring to a crushing of the spirit; cf. Isa 65:14, which interestingly enough is also noted in the second emphasis for the “haughty spirit that stumbles.”
“Stumbling” is the Noun KISHSHALON, כִּשָּׁלוֹן that is a hapaxlegomena, meaning it is used only here in the entire O.T. It is derived from the verb KASHAL that means, “to stumble.” It implies not only the action of falling, but also the action leading up to the fall, “i.e., stumbling or staggering.” Here we see the fall to reversionism for the believer.
In the spiritual sense, it means, “stumbling or the stumbling stone,” which means rejection of Jesus Christ, God and His Word. You see, arrogance means you think you do not need God or His Word in your life. It means the rejection of Jesus Christ as Savior and/or His Word post-salvation. That is what the arrogant individual does. He thinks he does not need God in His life, and that he is his own god, either overtly or subliminally. Therefore, He does not worship or follow God in His life. As a result he will be destroyed. For the unbeliever it means the eternal Lake of Fire; Rev 20:11-15, and for the believer it means Divine discipline that can lead to the sin unto death, 1 Cor 11:28-31.
Therefore, if pride contains the seeds of its own downfall, and it does, it is only a part of the equation, as God Himself takes an active role in the matter too. Our Lord proclaimed, “This is what they will get in return for their pride,” in Zeph 2:10. Therefore arrogance leads to destruction.
In Summary of vs. 17-18:
The positive believer who guards his daily walk with God, saying no to sin temptations and maintaining the filling of the Holy Spirit, protects his soul from the sin and corruption of Satan’s cosmic system
On the other hand, the arrogant unbeliever or believer who disregards God and His Word as important within his life, “stumbling on the stumbling stone,” will cause a ruining, collapse or destruction of his soul.
In both passages we have the “reap what you sow” principle, which is then summed up for us in vs. 19.
Prov 16:19, “It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly than to divide the spoil with the proud.
Here we have a “better than” comparison.
“It is better to be humble in spirit,” (SHAPHAL RUACH), “with the lowly,” (ANI – unfortunate, afflicted, poor, or humble. As Waltke notes, “it has the sense of one who through affliction has had his pride knocked out of him and becomes lowly in spirit before God”), “than to divide,” (CHALAQ – to be smooth, to flatter, to divide), “the spoil,” (SHALAL – booty, spoil), “with the proud,” (GE’EH).
GE’EH, גֵּאֶה is yet another word for arrogance and means, “proud or haughty.” It describes an attitude of pride in a people, especially the types who are unprincipled and take advantage of others, particularly the helpless person, to bring about some gain for themselves. Such a person is considered ungodly or wicked in Psa 92:4, 140:5; Prov 15:25. They are driven by inordinate ambition and their way of life is contrasted with that of the humble. Finally, they tend to think that their riches are what make them who they are, and that they will be protected in all situations by them, Prov 18:11. But that is a false perception and a façade regarding the realities of life.
Prov 29:23, “A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor.”
Humbling the proud is something only God can ultimately do, Job 40:11f.
Therefore, as we have seen in this chapter and throughout Proverbs, it is far, far better to humble yourself before the Lord God our King, to recognize that He is the Sovereign One, and that His Word must too be sovereign over your soul, than to think you have it all down and you do not need Him or His Word.
The booty (wealth and riches) of this world (Satan’s cosmic system) cannot hold a candle (cannot compare) to the riches, wealth, glory and honor, that God has for the humble soul of the positive believer (in both time and eternity), who recognizes the sovereignty of God and His Word over their life, and therefore make the intake and application of Bible Doctrine their number one priority in life. All to the glory of God!!!!!
As Paul said in Eph 3:8, “To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ.”
In vs. 16 we saw that wisdom has inestimable superiority to the riches of this world, because it bestows spiritual virtues in connection with material benefits, Prov 3:13-18. Then in vs. 17, we saw that the disciple guards his soul and life with the Word of God, while in vs. 18 the arrogant and proud reject it, leading to a shattering fall, as wealth without wisdom is vulgar, greedy and/or may be due to ruthless individualism. Then in vs. 19 we see that the one who protects his way through humility is blessed.
Part 2, Vs. 20-24:
Prov 16:20, “He who gives attention to the word will find good, and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD.
“Gives attention to” is the causative active Hiphil Participle of the verb SAKAL, שָׂכַל that means, “to succeed or understand.” It implies having the know-how to succeed in an endeavor and to obtain a desired result, because you have taken note of or paid attention to the teaching of God’s Word.
In this case, the desired result is to know God’s “Word,” (DABAR), well enough to excel in the spiritual life so that you are victorious, (a winner / overcomer), inside the Angelic Conflict. Using DABAR for “the word” has a dual meaning where it also refers to applying Bible Doctrine in your speech.
SAKAL is an important “wisdom” word dealing with having a good sense for living, in word and deed, cf. Deut 32:29; Prov 21:16, the opposite of being foolish, and speaking or acting shamefully, Prov 10:5.
The Participle is used to describe a wise person, cf. Job 22:2; Psa 2:10; 14:2, a reference to those who truly understand God’s Word and behave accordingly. For those that do, they “will find good” MATSA TOB, meaning he will know and walk in the righteousness of God on a consistent bases that results in blessing for both time and eternity.
The double emphasis in this verse is for those who are wise in the application of God’s Word, they will be “blessed,” (ESHER), which also means +H, Sharing in the Happiness of God, which is one of the Problem Solving Devices.
This happiness comes to those who “trust in the Lord” BATACH YHWH. BATACH means to place confidence in. That means we live the faith-rest life, which too is one of the 11 Problem Solving Devices.
The 11 Problem Solving Devices:
- Naming your sins to God the Father (Rebound)
- Filling of God the Holy Spirit
- Faith Rest Drill
- Doctrinal Orientation
- Grace Orientation
- Authority Orientation
- Personal Sense of Destiny
- Personal Love for God the Father
- Impersonal, Unconditional Love for Mankind
- Sharing the Happiness of God (+H)
- Occupation with the Lord Jesus Christ
The thing we place our confidence in is God and His Word. Therefore, we have the double emphasis to learn and trust in God and His Word for our lives.
Prov 16:21, “The wise in heart will be called understanding, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.
Given the double meaning of Bible Doctrine found in vs. 20, understanding and good speech, here we have two positive results; for “The wise in heart,” CHOKMA LEB, “will be called understanding,” and “increases persuasiveness.”
“Called” is an interesting word, because not only does it mean to contact someone verbally, but here it means to be given a name or title in the Passive Niphal Imperfect, cf. Gen 3:20; 4:25-26. This is one of the blessings we receive that lead to our happiness, in that when God and/or others view you as having “understanding,” BIN, (to understand or perceive). It means you will have a good reputation as God and others view you as a wise individual who has discernment in all areas of life that can be counted upon as faithful or trustworthy, and for good advice and counsel, as noted in the second half of this verse with the Noun MATEQ, מָתֵק for “sweetness” and “of speech,” which is SAPHAH, meaning, “lips” that indicates our verbal conduct / speech.
MATEQ is only used here and in Prov 27:9, “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, so a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.”
And in our verse this “sweetness of speech” results in “increasing persuasiveness,” which is the causative active Hiphil Imperfect of YASAPH, that means, “to add,” and the noun LEQACH, that means, “to teach or give insight.”
Therefore, when your speech is full of God’s Word and Doctrinal principles, it will cause others to be full of God’s Word and Doctrinal principles. It is a blessing that you have received, whic you are sharing with them, so that they too are blessed by God’s Word.
Therefore we see in this verse, that when you are filled with God’s Word, others will recognize that about you and will look highly upon you as a man or woman of insight and integrity, giving you a chance to be a blessing to them too, as they receive God’s Word from you in their life.
In other words, you have a much better chance to witness the gospel and truth of God’s Word to others, when you apply the Word of God in your life first. If you do not apply it first in your own life, you will have a more difficult time convincing others of its wisdom and benefit. The wise know how to make wisdom winsome, (attractive)!
Our Lord is the great example we should follow in this and all things pertaining to the spiritual life, Luke 4:22; 19:48; John 7:46.
Luke 4:22, “And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, “Is this not Joseph’s son?””
Prov 16:22, “Understanding is a fountain of life to one who has it, but the discipline of fools is folly.
Here we have another, and the last, of the “fountain of life,” (MAQOR CHAYYIM), passages found in Proverbs, Prov 10:11; 13:14; 14:27, where the application of Bible Doctrine, “understanding,” is SEKEL, שֵׂכֶל, a cognate of SAKAL that we noted earlier.
SEKEL means, “to have good sense or intelligence” that is more than just mere book knowledge or learning about a particular subject, it is the greater significance of having insight or understanding; true wisdom in your life.
Therefore, we see that the Word of God applied, not only gives life, but gushes forth life in your own life and that of others. It provide in abundance that which is necessary for life. It is the source of life. But this super-abundant life is only available “to one who has it,” BA’AL, בַּעַל that means, “owner, citizen, husband or Lord.”
Therefore, we understand this in that our husband and Lord, Jesus Christ, who is the Word of God that is given to us by means of the Scriptures, is a fountain of life to those who possess it, and are in fact citizens of heaven, i.e., believers, Eph 2:12, 19. Therefore, this verse speaks of the blessings of our POLITUEMA privileges found in God’s Word, when it is “lord” or sovereign over our lives.
The Contrast: “But the discipline of fools is folly.
“Discipline,” MUSAR, means, “chastisement, discipline, warning.” This is God’s Divine discipline for a wayward child, called a “fool” throughout the Book of Proverbs, 10:13; 13:24; 14:3; 22:15; 23:13-14; 26:3; 29:15.
“Fools” is the Plural of EWIYL, אֱוִיל, (evil), which is an adjective meaning, “foolish” in the sense of one who hates wisdom and walks in folly, despising wisdom and morality. Therefore, the fool is devoid of the application of Bible Doctrine in their life.
God then tells us that the discipline of the one without doctrine in their life is “folly,” IWWELETH, meaning that discipline is a wasted life. Rather than living the superabundant life of the spiritually mature believer, the fool’s life is wasted not just in the foolishness of their mode of operation, but also being constantly disciplined by God. Instead of being in a place of blessing with impact, they are in a place of discipline and wasted opportunities.
Prov 16:23, “The heart of the wise instructs his mouth and adds persuasiveness to his lips.
This is very similar to vs. 21, with a slight variation from having a good reputation to just plain and simply having God’s Word resident within your soul that leads you to have good and influential speech come out of your mouth.
In the first half of this verse, we see that the sovereignty of God’s Word stored in the right lobe, “heart,” (LEB), “of the wise,” (CHAKAM), believer will “instructs his mouth,” which is SAKAL PEH that means, “give prudence or understanding to his mouth.” Therefore, we understand that Bible doctrine stored in your soul leads to wisdom applied in your words / speech.
In addition, the second half of this verse, which ends just as vs. 21b does, tells us that God’s Word stored in the right lobe of your soul will also, “add persuasiveness to your lips,” YASAPH LEQACH SAPHAH. It means that they are able to speak in a way that makes their counsel attractive, desirable and timely, cf. Prov 15:23; 25:11f.
So just as in vs. 21, when your speech is full of God’s Word and Doctrinal principles that are stored in the right lobe of your soul, it will cause others to receive God’s Word and Doctrinal principles. That is, you will be able to win souls and exhort your fellow believers with the Word of God resident within your soul. Therefore, the sovereignty of Bible Doctrine stored in the right lobe of your soul, leads you to speak righteously with wisdom that also influences others to learn and know God’s Word; i.e., the Gospel and other Doctrinal principles. This is one of the “blessings by association” principles.
Prov 16:24, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
Here we see that Bible doctrine taught “pleasant words,” (NO’AM EMER), is a blessing to others called a “honeycomb.”
“Honeycomb” is made up of two Hebrew words that both mean honey:
The first is TSUPH, צוּף that is only used here and in Psa 19:10 regarding the Lord’s judgments as being like honey. TSUPH denotes, “the liquid form of honey and, by association, the honeycomb, which flows with honey.”
The second word is DEBASH דְּבַשׁ, (devash) that is the more predominate of several Hebrew words used for honey. It speaks of the produce of the bee that was used as a gift given to others in its first use in Scripture, Gen 43:11. It too is used in Psa 19:10 regarding the judgments of the Lord and highlights the “sweetness” of the honey or thing in view. In our verse this is also noted in the second half of the verse with the word “sweet” MATOQ, מָתוֹק that literally means, “sweet” and in figurative language “pleasant,” which complements the first half of this verse. Prov 24:13, likens honey to “wisdom” that is God’s Word. It is used predominately for Israel, “the land flowing with milk and honey.” But here it is used for the pleasure that the Word or God gives to those who receive it.
This sweetness or pleasantness of God’s Word has a positive impact “to the soul,” NEPESH, which means, the Word of God that emanates from the right lobe of your soul through your speech has a reciprocal blessing back to your soul. As we noted in vs. 17, it guards and protects the soul, and here it provides joy and happiness, the +H of God, as also noted in vs. 20.
The other benefit of Bible Doctrine in your soul that is applied through your speech has, is for “healing of the bones,” MARPE LE ESTEM, that means it will provide for “good health,” cf. Prov 3:8; 4:22; 12:18.
“It refers to the restoration of the entire person or community, both the immaterial and material aspects.” (Waltke, New International Commentary)
The Word of God, due to its provision of a Relaxed Mental Attitude of the Faith-Rest Life, is not only pleasing to those that receive it, but also provides for good health in its partakers. Doctrinal words of wisdom have the power of life and death, Prov 12:18. The wise person will use them carefully and thoughtfully, Prov 15:28.
Those who desire to help, strengthen, bring joy to, or comfort others must choose their words wisely before they speak and then graciously provide the healing power, mentally and physically, of the wisdom found in God’s Word. Medicine is usually bitter to the taste, but the good news of the gospel and the truth of God’s Word are a sweet elixir that brings healing and blessings to those who receive it, Prov 25:25.
Prov 25:25, “Like cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a distant land.”
And the principle of prudence and discernment is also shown in the honey metaphor as, “too much honey makes you sick,” Prov 25:16; that is, too many words will drive your hearer away. Less is more, as the saying goes.
Prov 16:25, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.
Here we have the bridge between the importance and benefits of having God’s Word as sovereign over our souls, and the negative results or consequences of not having God’s Word sovereign over our souls, which we will see in our next / fourth section, vs. 26-30.
This passage reminds us of Prov 12:15; 14:12; 16:2.
Prov 12:15, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.”
Prov 14:12, which is identical to our verse, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”
It also recalls vs.18-19, and the warning to not be arrogant within our souls and think that we have all the answers to life, to the exclusion of God’s Word in our soul’s and lives.
Many times, because of what we see or hear, we make rash decisions and think we are making good and right ones. But in fact, it is the wrong decision for us and it results in further problems and difficulties. It cautions against estimating the consequences of our lifestyle, because, as we noted in Prov 12:15a, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes.”
Here we are warned to not be arrogant in our thinking, which results when there is an absence of God’s Word in our soul, because it will result in the three stages of Divine discipline. And if it goes unchecked, without rebound and repentance, then “its end is the way of death,” which means the third stage of Divine Discipline, the Sin Unto Death.
Therefore, this verse fits the general theme of the context of this chapter: that wise planning is that which is done in the light of God’s sovereign judgeship over human affairs, cf. Prov 16:2, 9, 16ff, 33.
Next we will see in vs. 26-30, several examples of arrogant foolishness that we are to avoid
Section 4, Vs. 26-30, God’s admonition of the fool who does not treat His Word as sovereign within their lives.
This section gives us several antonyms to what we just noted in vs. 16-24. These are some of the negative results or consequences for the person who does not make God’s Word as sovereign over their soul and life.
Prov 16:26, “A worker’s appetite works for him, for his hunger urges him on.”
The first antonym has to do with our motivation.
“Appetite” is NEPHESH that means, “soul”, but here used poetically for that which drives a man, along with AMAL for “works, toils, troubles, etc.,” which speaks of that which satisfies the appetite.
Many times in scripture “appetite” also means emotions, so we see that the motivation of this man is his emotions and physical lusts, cravings and desires that drive him to action. He is motivated and led by his emotions and Old Sin Nature, rather than by God’s Word.
“Hunger” is PEH, the word for “mouth,” used for that which feeds the appetite, and “urges” is AKAPH that means, “to press, to urge, to impel, or to compel,” used for what drives the man.
Therefore, rather than being motivated by love for God and His Word, and seeking after Him and His Word diligently; this person is motivated by their hunger, lusts, desires, and cravings, which all emanate from the Old Sin Nature.
We also see that rather than making God’s Word sovereign over his life and receiving the resultant blessings that come from walking in God’s righteousness, this person is being led by his emotions and sin nature to perform human works through human power to satisfy his needs.
The lesson is, “what motivates you?,” God and His Word as Sovereign over your soul, or your wants, needs, lusts, cravings, and desires in emotional revolt of the soul. For those that do not place God’s Word as a priority in their lives, the latter is the driving force in their life.
Remember that vs. 16 exhorted us to “buy/acquire wisdom and understanding” rather than the “gold and silver” of this world, cf. Rev 3:18.
Our Lord said in Rev 3:18, “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.”
Yet, the one who is led by their appetites will be motivated by the wrong agents, (emotions and sin nature), and will instead seek to buy/acquire the things of Satan’s cosmic system, rather than the things of God.
Prov 16:27, “A worthless man digs up evil, while his words are like scorching fire.”
The second antonym speaks of the problems caused by our erroneous motivation.
“Worthless” is the Hebrew noun BELIYYA’AL, בְּלִיַּעַל. It literally means, “worthless,” and denotes those who are “useless or good-for-nothing.” Specifically, it refers to those who deliberately deprive others of justice or good, through false testimony, defamation, oppression, etc., and speaks of those who are morally and spiritually degenerate.
These types, “dig up evil” KARAH RA’AH, where KARAH means, “to dig, to purchase, or to give a feast.”
This is an interesting continuation of vs. 26, where this person is “purchasing evil to serve to others”, as noted in the idiom “to dig up.”
How do they serve this wicked feast, “by cooking it over the fire of a perverse mouth” that is “words like scorching fire,” SAPHAH ESH TSAREVETH, that means “lips like a fire of scorching.”
This idiom means using words to entrap others to either lead them into the same folly that they are performing, or in order to take advantage of them to gain falsely or illicitly.
This type of “digging up” is also done to give what was dug up to someone else. It is another way of saying, “bringing up the past”, that is, to bring up someone’s past sins or failures in order to exploit them or use them against them, thereby gaining some advantage over them.
As God tells us, the kind of person that does this is, “good-for-nothing.”
Prov 16:28, “A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends.”
The third antonym speaks of suffering by association; that is, evil actions cause problems and difficulties for others and tear relationships apart.
A “perverse man,” TAHPUKAH ISH, is one who has deceptive and corrupt speech, is a slanderer, and/or distorts the things of God, as they deviate and distort His Word and ways, Duet 32:20. They distort what is straight and right. We could also say this is the false teacher of false doctrine, leading people into moral and immoral degeneracy.
As a result of their slanderous speech, they “spread strife,” which is one of the 7 abominable sins of Prov 6:17-19.
“Strife,” MADON, means, “contention, disputes or strife.” In general, these people are stirring up or “digging up” trouble between other people, because of the slanderous scorching fire coming out of their mouths.
This “slanderer,” the reflexive Niphal use of RAGAN, that means “whisper or murmur,” “separates intimate friends,” PARAD, פָּרַד, ALLUP, אַלוּף.
Here we see the “secret” teller who goes around “airing people’s dirty laundry”, bringing up past sins and failures or saying false and deceptive things to others about others. As a result, they cause all kinds of problems, difficulties and mistrust between even those who are close friends. This person loves to break up friendships or even marriages, hoping that they can win over one or the other from those previous relationships, so that they can gain a friend or follower. We also see here the motivation of jealousy and bitterness in this person that leads them to do such things.
Prov 16:29, “A man of violence entices his neighbor and leads him in a way that is not good.
The fourth antonym is wrong motivation leads to violent actions.
“Violence” is the noun CHAMAS that refers to “violence, or an injury that is suffered by violence.” It refers to the wickedness of people who desire to injure others through their words or actions. Here it seems that violent words are in view, given the context of the preceding verses.
Violence is the product of a calloused heart Psa 73:7-9, which violence is hated by God, Mal 2:16. So we see wrong motivation once again, due to a lack of Bible Doctrine in the soul that leads to violent actions.
This injurious person “entices, deceives or persuades,” PATHAH, “his neighbors and friends,” REA, in order to “lead him in a way that is not good.” HALAK DEREK LO-TOB. That is, he tries to get them to follow his way of corruption, sin and unrighteousness.
Therefore, having wrong motivation from his lustful desires, he uses slanderous speech for his own gain, to break up friends or marriage, so that they will follow him in his injurious reversionism and degeneracy that is not good.
Prov 16:30, “He who winks his eyes does so to devise perverse things; he who compresses his lips brings evil to pass.”
The fifth antonym tells us that wicked plans lead to wicked actions.
“Winking the eye,” Prov 6:13; 10:10 Psa 35:19, speaks of the “heart that devises wicked plans,” which too is one of the 7 abominable sins of Prov 6:17-19, and “compressing the lips,” QARATS SAPHAH, Prov 4:24; 7:21, means speaking those evil plans to others, typically with false flattery, to get them to join in on the evil they are partaking of.
They are doing these things to “devise perverse things,” which is TAHPUKAH once again that means deceptive and corrupt speech. They also “devise perverse things” to “bring evil to pass” KALAH RA’AH, in the intensive active Piel Perfect that means, “he absolutely brings to completion evil.”
Therefore, the evil person with wrong motivation from his lusts and desires, schemes up perverse things and recruits others through slander and flattery, so that his evil plans come to fruition / completion.
One final note is that KALAH is synonymous to the Greek word TELEO that means “to bring to an end, complete, fulfill or accomplished.” As you know, Jesus used the Perfect tense of TELEO, which is TETELESTAI, upon the Cross to indicate that the payment of sin had been complete. By way of comparison, this evil person does not look to Christ or His Word for their motivation and actions, and instead feed off of their emotions and Old Sin Nature. As a result, the thing they bring to completion is sin, wickedness and evil in their own life and in the life of others they can persuade or dupe as well.
Section 5, Vs. 31-32, God’s endorsement of the wise who treat His Word as sovereign in their lives.
Returning to the positive, we see more characteristics of those who make God’s Word Sovereign in their souls.
Prov 16:31, “A gray head is a crown of glory; it is found in the way of righteousness.”
The first endorsement is towards those who have consistently applied God’s Word throughout their life.
“Crown of Glory”, is ‘ATARAH, עֲטָרָה that means, “a garland, diadem or crown,” and TIPHARAH תִּפְאֶרֶת that means, “adornment, ornament, splendor or glory.” This is synonymous with the Greek phrase STEPHANOS DOXA or “crown of glory” in 1 Peter 5:4.
Interestingly, the Crown of Glory is one of four crowns the believer of the Church Age can be awarded at the BEMA seat of Jesus Christ. It is awarded for being willing to feed the flock of God, 1 Peter 5:1-4. It is for those who teach others the truth of God’s Word. This is in contrast to those above who use their speech for evil and wickedness, and distort the truths of God’s Word.
This “glory,” TIPHARAH, is applied to personal characteristics in the Book of Proverbs that describe:
- What wisdom gives to its possessor, Prov 4:9.
- The ability to forgive an offense, Prov 19:11.
- What strength is to a young man, Prov 20:29.
Therefore, the “gray headed,” SEYBAH, man is one who has years of experience in the intake and application of Bible Doctrine. In other words, God’s Word has been and continually is sovereign in his life, as their life is “found in the way of righteousness,” meaning that they exemplify the righteousness of God in their life, as clearly seen by all in their words and actions. They have and do consistently apply Bible Doctrine.
Prov 16:32, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.”
The second endorsement is for those who control their emotions and allow the Word of God to rule their soul well.
An example of the wisdom of the soul that the grey headed man has is how he controls emotions of his soul. As we see here, “he is slow to anger”, which is the Hebrew idiom, AREK APH that literally means, “long nosed.” This is the person with doctrine in their soul who is not quick to become angry, cf. Prov 12:16, but instead has patients, cf. Prov 14:29; 15:18; 19:11; 30:33.
This man is said to be “better than the might.” TOB MIN GIBBOR. GIBBAH, גִּבּוֹר means, “valiant, powerful or warrior.” It tells us that the bearer of the title is the epitome of the action implied. Therefore, the man that is slow to anger is a patient man and far better than what the world considers as a valiant or powerful person.
Then we see, “he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.”
“Rules” is the Qal Active of the verb MASHAL that not only means, “to rule,” but also can mean, “to speak a proverb.” The second meaning is the more prevalent meaning in the OT usage of MASHAL. So here we have a double-entendre, because the Proverbs, God’s Word, is what is ruling this man’s soul.
The thing that Bible Doctrine rules is his “spirit,” RUACH. This is in contrast to the “soulish man” of vs. 26 whose appetite / emotions ruled and not God’s Word. Notice that the wise man is ruled by the Doctrine cycling through his regenerated human spirit; whereas, the reversionistic believer or unbeliever is ruled by his soul that is influenced by either the Bible doctrine in the human spirit or his emotions and sin nature. And as we noted in vs. 26-30, that reversionistic man was influenced by his emotions and sin nature.
Nevertheless, the spiritual man is ruled by God’s Word resident within his soul, and as a result he is “better than he who captures a city.” “Captures” is the Qal Active of LAKAD that means to, “catch, capture, seize, occupy, etc.”
This comparison then tells us that the one who is occupied by Jesus Christ, the Word of God, is better than the warrior who conquers and occupies a city. In both sections of this passage, the man of God is far, far better than the man of this world who is steeped in cosmic viewpoint. The man with Divine viewpoint from God’s Word resident within his soul is superior in God’s eyes and plan, than the man filled with sin, human good, evil, and cosmic viewpoint.
Summary and Conclusion:
Prov 16:33, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”
This verse concludes with the overall theme of this chapter is telling us, in yet another way, that God is the Sovereign Being of the universe. The analogy here is the “the lot cast into the lap,” with the causative passive Hophal stem of TUL that means, to “cast or throw.” Therefore it means, “the lot was caused to be cast into the lap.” In fact, “lap” is used for our English ears, as the Hebrew is CHEQ that means, “bosom,” and meant a pocket just above the waist belt.
We do not cast lots like that anymore, but what may be more familiar to us is the drawing of straws to see who gets elected to do something. The one who draws the short straw is the one who gets elected to do the action, just as the one who the lot gets cast into his lap is the one who is elected to do the action or task at hand.
We are the ones who perform the action of casting the lot or drawing the straws from our own free will volition, but as the second half of this verse tells us, it is truly the sovereign decision, from eternity past, of the Lord, as to whose lap the lot lands in, or who draws the short straw, as “every decision is from the LORD.”
This is similar to what we noted in vs. 1, where we have free will volition to make decisions, but the action(s) belong to the Lord.
All of our thoughts and actions, God knew, by means of His foreknowledge, from eternity past and placed them in His Divine decree, (Divine Plan). Everything that we do, or happens in our lives, is from the Divine decree of God’s sovereignty. He is the one who allows it to occur, and He has entered it into His overall plan for our life and for all of mankind.
So this verse concludes our study of Proverbs Chapter 16 which showed us in many ways that God is our Sovereign King and that His Word should also be sovereign over our souls and lives, so that we are motivated by righteousness and operate in justice, all to the glory of our great God and King, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.