The Book of Proverbs
The main theme for Chapter 18 is found in the first verse with the word, “separates.” It is the Hebrew verb PARADH, פָּרַד that means, “to divide, or to be separated.” It means, to split into two or more parts or pieces, being separate from, not a part of, or not mixing with. We saw this word in Prov 16:28 and 17:9, for the perverse “whisperer” and “slanderer” who separates intimate friends.
As you know, there are times when a believer needs to separate himself from evil and sin, either mentally or physically, which is good, prudent and wise separation. But here we see the one who wrongly separates himself as a result of arrogance that leads to rejection of Bible doctrine, truth, righteousness, and justice and those who function in them.
This is the person I spoke of on Sunday during the 7th part of “Being a Child of God.” This is the one who separates himself from the body of Christ, thinking they know best how to live their lives on their own without the fellowship of the overall body. And as I noted, just as a burning coal that is removed from the fire will soon burn out, so too does the believer who separates from the body of Christ.
Therefore, this series of proverbs speaks of the fool who “separates” himself from righteousness and justice; separates himself from God, His Word and His Children. In this chapter we are going to see some new and some repeated proverbs regarding our thoughts, words and conduct, but keep in mind they all are related to the negative consequences of being a “separatist” from the body of Christ.
By way of outline, Chapter 18 addresses bad separation as follows.
- Vs. 1-14, The negative affects of the fool who separates from righteousness.
- Vs. 15-24, The blessings for the wise who strive for unity in righteousness.
Vs. 1-14, The negative affects of the fool who separates from righteousness.
Prov 18:1, “He who separates himself seeks his own desire, he quarrels against all sound wisdom.”
As we have seen throughout Proverbs, community and fellowship are highly valued, and what we have, beginning in vs. 1, is the person who deliberately isolates or separates himself from others, especially from the righteous or the body of Christ, due to the arrogance of his soul to “seek his own desires.” This phrase is the intensive active Piel stem of BAQASH TA’AWAH.
This is the one who rejects the limitations of the lustful desires of lasciviousness that are found in God’s Word and His children. As a result he separates from learning Bible Doctrine and those who know Bible Doctrine so that he can seek his own counsel, (i.e., listen to the temptations of his Old Sin Nature), rather than benefiting from the insights of God’s Word and those who know it and live by it. That is what it means to “quarrel against all sound wisdom.” He does not want to hear about how to live in God’s righteousness, so he rejects it by separating himself from the body of Christ.
Isolation, (withdrawal from a community), is not a virtue in Proverbs, since wisdom is found in many counselors, (i.e., God’s Word and His Children who have doctrine in their souls), never in hearing just one point of view.
In addition, we see that the separatist has a the tendency to quarrel, which is the Hebrew verb GALA, גָּלַע in the Hithpael Imperfect that literally means, “to break out,” but comes to mean, “to quarrel.” The Hithpael stem is used for reflexive action, and the Imperfect is for on-going action. So “he continually quarrels” against wisdom (Bible Doctrine) and those who have it. He argues over points of doctrine, in constant debate, and he never comes to humility to accept that someone else or something else, (God’s Word), may have more knowledge about life than he does. Therefore, the loner quarrels with all who have sound judgment.
Quarreling also reveals the underlying cause of this withdrawal. It is some form of anger, stemmed from his arrogance, bitterness, jealousy, etc., which is also condemned throughout Proverbs.
Therefore, we see that as is typical, humility is always the key to receiving the wisdom and blessings of God. When we are arrogant we tend to separate ourselves from God, His Word and His children so that we can satisfy the arrogant and lustful desires of our Old Sin Nature. This is further noted in vs. 2.
Prov 18:1, “A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind.”
Here we see that the foolish separatist really does not like or value God’s Word. Again, he thinks he knows it all, and does not need the counsel of God’s Word. From this we also see that the positive believer rejoices in God’s Word. It is a delight to his soul and he values the principles, precepts and wisdom found in it.
In the second half of this passage we see what the foolish separatist does like / delight in: listening to himself talk. He loves to espouse his opinions and view points, which are steeped in worldly and cosmic view point, which in reality is foolishness. He is more impressed with himself than he is with the wisdom found in God’s Word and God’s children.
The word for “reveal” here is GALAH, גָּלָה also in the reflexive Hithpael that means, “to reveal, to be revealed, to uncover, (regarding sexual relationship), to reveal oneself, to expose, to disclose, to remove, or to go into exile.” In other words, he does this to himself. He reveals the foolishness of his cosmic viewpoint.
Rhyming in the Hebrew with GALA, גָּלַע of vs. 1, we see that the quarreler loves to reveal his foolishness, which also has the result of exiling or separating him from God’s children.
Prov 18:1, “When a wicked man comes, contempt also comes, and with dishonor comes scorn/reproach.”
Here we see the separatist bringing his contempt for God, His Word and His children to the party. In the Hebrew this reads better as, “When wickedness comes, contempt also comes.” It was changed to the pronoun “wicked man” to align with the separatist we have been noting.
“Contempt”, BUZ in the Hebrew, is an attitude of disrespect and scorn toward things or people, and in this case towards God, His Word and His children.
Contempt may spring from pride or personal wickedness, Job 31:34; Psa 123:3-4, but also from arrogance because of wealth, Job 12:5. This is the person who says, “I’m good. I don’t need God in my life,” and as a result he is antagonistic towards those who do value God and His Word in their lives.
Psa 31:18, “Let the lying lips be mute, which speak arrogantly against the righteous with pride and contempt.”
This contempt may be overt or very subtle, where they simply just avoid God and His children.
In the second half of this verse we have, “and with dishonor comes scorn/reproach.”
“Dishonor” is QALON that means, “shame or dishonor” and continues the rhyme with GALA
“Scorn or Reproach” is CHERPAH that means, “to taunt or disgrace” someone.
So these two words combine to tell us of the negative consequences of the foolish separatist. He will have dishonor and disgrace, not only in God’s eyes, but also in the eyes of God’s children who are walking in righteousness.
As surely as friends are found together, so these consequences of dishonor and disgrace will accompany the separatist. Therefore, in a sense, when the fool separates from righteousness and his fellowship with the body of Christ, he is uniting himself with dishonor and disgrace: his new intimate friends.
Prov 18:4, “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; but the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.”
In this verse we have a topographical analogy between “deep waters” or a well, and a “bubbling brook” or better a gorge, NACHAL, that also means a fountain.
This verse compares the average everyday cosmic viewpoint of the fool in the phrase “a man’s mouth” indicating that it is as “deep water,” cf. Prov 18:4; 20:5, which connotes that the fool’s words and plans are unfathomable, inaccessible, non-beneficial, and probably potentially dangerous, cf. Psa 64:6. It speaks of the bad speech of the ordinary cosmic person, which even he cannot fully plumb because of his depraved motives; cf. Prov 16:2; 20:5.
His speech stands in striking contrast to “wisdom,” which is used as a metonymy for the wise in contrast to the cosmic person. It tells us of wisdom’s open, clear, life-changing, and sustaining speech that comes forth in abundant supply to serve others, and not self, Prov 8:6-9.
Wisdom is said here to be a “fountain,” MAQOR that means, “spring,” which elsewhere in Proverbs is said to issue life itself, Prov 10:11; 13:14; 14:27; 16:22; cf. 25:26. Here it is linked with “bubbling brook,” which is better translated as “a gorge” or “valley stream.” What is interesting is that the gorge or valley stream is not always flowing fully, but when it does flow, it rushes and gushes forth tremendous amounts of water. It is linked with “fountain” here to combine the notions of a constant and inexhaustible supply of living water with its ready accessibility and abundance, which is ever-flowing. So we see the tremendous abundance of Bible Doctrine that flows continuously from God’s Word and from the soul of the righteous believer.
Therefore, we understand the contrast between the separatist that desires to expose his limited cosmic viewpoint with the ever flowing and life giving nature of God’s Word gushing forth from His children.
Prov 18:5, “To show partiality to the wicked is not good, nor to thrust aside the righteous in judgment.”
We have been noting the various characteristics of the foolish separatist who rejects God, His Word and His children, and here we have two more characteristics.
The first characteristic is that they show “partiality to the wicked.” That is, they show favoritism towards those who are like-minded, those who also reject Divine viewpoint and God’s children. As the saying goes, “misery loves company,” so too does the wicked person love to be surrounded by those who also espouse the same wickedness of cosmic viewpoint. And in this case, the unrighteous person is showing favoritism to those who operate in unrighteousness over those who are walking inside of God’s Plan for their lives.
In the Hebrew, “partiality” is the Qal Infinitive of the verb NASA that means, “to lift up or lifting up.” In other words, they boast about, and lift up on high, those who reject God’s Word and God’s children who are consistently operating with Bible Doctrine in their souls. As this verse tells us, that is “not good.”
In addition, the second half of this verse tells us that they are also antagonistic toward God, His Word and His children, as noted in the phrase, “thrust aside the righteous.” It is the causative active Hiphil Infinitive of the verb NATAH that means, to “turn aside” with the noun TSADDIQ. To turn aside justice means to pervert it or to deny access to justice. Therefore, the wicked separatist is one prone to pervert justice regarding the righteous, not allowing for fair “judgments,” (MISHPAT), trials or dealings; and thereby giving preferential treatment to the wicked, which too is “not good” in God’s eyes, nor should it be in ours.
To be consistently operating in the righteousness of God, you must treat all people fairly, with righteousness, justice, love, grace, and kindness. That is what we call AGAPE Love, (i.e., Impersonal and Conditional Love for all of mankind). It means that you treat those who you like and dislike with the same regard when making decisions and judgments that affect them. It means there should not be any favoritism or sweetheart deals for some and not for others.
Prov 18:6, “A fool’s lips bring strife, and his mouth calls for blows.”
Vs. 5 condemned the perversion of speech that undermines justice, especially in a court of law. Now in vs. 6-7 we see the negative social consequences of misusing speech, implicitly toward others and explicitly toward self.
“Strife” here is the Hebrew RIV, רִיב that means, “a lawsuit or contention,” cf. Prov 15:87, 17:1, 14.
It speaks to the foolish separatist who may lie, especially in a court of law, to cause wrong judgments against defendants. It also means that with their speech, they cause dissention among others that were previously united.
The second half of this verse tells us that due to this fool’s speech, he commits perjury and deserves to be punished, i.e., “calls for blows.” It is the Hebrew noun MAHALUMOT, מַהֲלֻמוֹת that means, “blows or beating” that is only used here and in Prov 19:29.
Prov 19:29, “Judgments are prepared for scoffers, and blows for the back of fools.”
Prov 18:7, “A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are the snare of his soul.”
Then in vs. 7, we see that the fool’s mouth brings about his own ruin, MECHITTAH – terror or destruction.
This is a principle of self-induced misery, where the foolish separatist, who keeps running his mouth in arrogance, trying to cause strife or dissention among others, will eventually bring about his own down fall, cf. Prov 12:13; 17:14, 19, 28; 20:3.
And as the second half of this verse tells us, “his lips are the snare of his soul.” In other words, his speech traps him over and over again causing him to fall into sin and evil. And as a result, it negatively affects his soul. It is like the principle, when a lie it repeated over and over again, people will believe it is the truth. In this case, the foolish separatist, with his perjuring, slanderous speech, leads to and reinforces his self-deception. He absolutely believes the lies coming from his mouth, as noted in the next verse.
Even though vs. 6 and 7 contain separate sayings, they are linked topically and structurally (lips… mouth… mouth… lips). Because of its foolish and thus wicked content, a fool’s speech invites rebuke, correction and punishment. His words are a source of his own ruin, since what comes out of his own mouth traps and condemns him, cf. Prov 14:3.
Prov 14:3, “In the mouth of the foolish is a rod for his back, But the lips of the wise will protect them.”
Prov 18:8, “The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, and they go down into the innermost parts of the body.”
This verse is identical to Prov 26:22, where it also follows two verses dealing with the strife that is the result of gossip, Prov 26:20ff. It points out that gossips are fools using the word “whisperer” once again, which is the verb RAGAN meaning, “to gossip or complain,” that we noted in Prov 16:28.
Prov 16:28, “A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends.”
In our verse, we see how easy it is to swallow the lie coming from the mouth of the gossiper. It goes down “like dainty morsels,” which means it is very easy to receive gossip from others who offer it up, especially when you do not have Bible doctrine resident in or applied from your soul.
“Dainty morsels,” is the verb LAHAM, לָהַם that occurs twice in the OT, here and in Prov 26:22. Older versions of the Bible, including the KJV, translate the noun “wounds,” which more describes the affects of gossiping. But later versions do not, and translate it more literally, as we have in the NASB. Grammatically, this is a reflexive Hithpael Participle of a verb meaning, “to swallow greedily.” So it means something gulped, and is used to describe gossip as something that most people will swallow whole and be permeated by it.
In the second half of this verse, we see that the gossip or lie that is easily swallowed by the hearer, negatively affects them, just as it does to the gossiper, as it penetrates the soul, i.e., “innermost parts of the body,” CHEDER BETEN.
Here we see rather than metabolizing Bible Doctrine within your soul that brings benefits and blessings, the fool and his audience is metabolizing gossip, slander and lies that negatively affect their soul, leading them to “swallow the lie” and believe what is false about God, His Word and His children.
Interestingly, as Prov 26:20 tells us, “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.” It tells us that when we reject the gossip from the gossiper, we will have peace within our lives, i.e., a Relaxed Mental Attitude, RMA.
Prov 18:9, “He also who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys.”
Here we see by analogy the negative affects of the gossiper and a person’s indifference toward them and their gossiping. It gives us analogy in the way of indifference towards your job. Therefore, whether it is indifference towards your job or towards the foolish gossiping separatist, indifference is destructive.
By way of example, the person who does not really care about how well something is done, or whether it ever gets done, will not do a good job, regardless of the task. The finished product will be poorly crafted, sloppily assembled, perhaps even dangerous, and those results may lead to loss of employment.
We see all of this in the word, “slack” which is the reflexive Hithpael verb RAPHAH, רָפָה that means, “to show oneself to be lax”, cf. Josh 18:3. It also means, “to show oneself to be without courage,” in Prov 24:10.
The only other time we have seen this word in Proverbs was in Prov 4:13, “Take hold of instruction; do not let go. Guard her, for she is your life,” that exhorted us to not be slack or lazy with our intake, metabolization and application of Bible Doctrine.
“Work” is the Hebrew Noun MELAKAH, מְלָאכָה that means, “work or business.” It speaks of the professional and their profession. Therefore we see, as professional in the spiritual life, the believer has a job to perform. He is to be diligently performing the “work of the Lord,” which means he is to take in God’s Word and apply it in his speech consistently. That means to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As 1 Cor 15:58, tells us, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”
But if we do not, then we are “brother to him who destroys,” ACH HU LE BA’AL MASHCHITH.
MASHCHITH, מַשְׁחִית is the noun of the root verb SHACHATH, שָׁחַת that means, “to spoil, to ruin, to destroy, to pervert, to corrupt, to become corrupt, or to wipe out.”
Therefore, we see that the foolish separatist gossiper is a spoiler, ruiner, destroyer, perverter, and corrupter of his own soul and life, as well as that of others who associate with him. And if we do not do our jobs unto the Lord as professional Christians, then due to our lack of work and effort, to learn and apply God’s Word, it will allow for us to be susceptible to the gossiping, maligning, slandering, and lying of others that brings spoilage, ruin, perversion, corruption, and destruction to our souls and lives.
Prov 18:10, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe.”
This verse playing off of the previous, as does vs. 11, tells us how to avoid being susceptible to the gossip and lies of others. They do so by contrasting the true and false security we can have in life, respectfully.
Vs. 10 begins with our true security: The Lord Himself. Here we are exhorted to take refuge in the “name of the Lord”, YHWH, because He is our “strong tower,” OZ MIGDAL. This phrase is used in reference to that which gives protection from enemies and foes. It was first used for the group in Babel that built a tower of their own resources and power, thinking that they could be as God, in Gen 11:4-5. But God is our true tower of strength and He is the One we should trust and rely upon. He is the only sure refuge e.g., Psa 18:1ff; 46:1-11; 62:1f, 5-8. Yet, when we are devoid of His Word in our soul, we will turn to the foolish, separatist, gossiper to find strength and courage rather than God.
That is why it is so important, as the second half of this passage tells us, to protect our souls by “running into it,” that is, turning to the true tower of strength; God, His Word and His children. As a result we will be “safe,” which is the simple passive Niphal Perfect of the Verb SAGAB, שָׂגַב (sāghav) that means, “to be high or to be inaccessible,” denoting “protection.” Therefore, when we look to the Lord for our strength, we are protected from laziness in the spiritual life that protects our souls against being susceptible to the influences of the foolish separatist gossiper, which protects our spiritual life.
Prov 18:11, “A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his own imagination.”
The first half of this verse is identical with Prov 10:15 that tells us wealth insulates, just as walled cities protect their inhabitants. The security afforded by wealth, however, is illusory. Since the resources of the wealthy are not infinite, regardless of appearances, there is always the possibility that they will be overwhelmed by famine, war, plague, or some other disaster. Nor do riches guarantee safety from turmoil, strife or dissension within the home, Prov 15:16f; 17:1, as the lives of Abraham and David showed, cf. Gen 13:2; 16:4f; 2 Sam 13-18.
So here we see that trusting in these things is a false sense of security, which negatively affects our souls. As we noted in vs. 10, the Lord is the only sure refuge and it is the righteous who understand this, but not necessarily the wealthy. This is not to deny that the wealthy may trust the Lord, cf. Mat 19:23-26, but merely to note that the source of security is more easily interpreted by what is seen and can be used, rather than what is unseen and not in our control.
“Strong” here is OZ once again, which reminds us of the movie, “The Wizard of Oz,” and how that “Emerald City,” with all of its wealth and riches, would protect little Dorothy and Toto too, lol. Unfortunately, that is the thinking of too many believers today. Rather than trusting in God, His Word and His children, they trust in their wealth and their town, city, state, or nation to provide for and protect them.
The Hebrew word for “high” with “wall,” is SAGAB once again, where it emphasizes the false concept of an inaccessible wall around your house or city that the one without Bible doctrine in their soul trusts in.
But as it states here, it is only in their “imagination,” which is the noun MASKIYTH, מַשְׂכִּית. In other words, it is only a “mask,” a false façade. Interestingly, this word is first used in Lev 26:1 for false idols. Therefore, the fails façade of seeking refuge in worldly wealth, cities, people, etc., is akin to false god worship. In other words, they are making those things into gods in their lives.
But as this Proverb tells us, it is only imaginary, not real, as Prov 25:28, also tells us, “Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit.”
In other words, if the things of this world, including the foolish separatist gossiper, are what you are putting your hope and trust in, then it indicates that you have “no control over your spiritual life.”
Therefore, we are exhorted to place our 100% faith, hope and trust in the Lord, because He is our real and true fortress.
Psa 18:2-3, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 3I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.”
Prov 18:12. “Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, but humility goes before honor.”
Continuing our theme of the foolish separatist, this verse is similar to the following proverbs…
Prov 11:2, “When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom.”
Prov 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.”
Prov 29:23, “A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor.”
Our proverb warns once again that the arrogant, foolish separatist is headed for “destruction,” SHEBER, שֶׁבֶר that means, “a breaking or ruin.” It is used to indicate the potential for self-induced misery and Divine discipline as a result of the arrogance complex of sins in this person’s life. It also tells us that his arrogance results in disobedience to God and His Word.
“Haughty” here is the Qal Imperfect of the Verb GABAH, גָּבַהּ used to describe anything that is tall or high. It is used figuratively for the person who “exalts” himself above others; especially above God and His Word. Therefore, it simply means, to be “arrogant.” We noted this word in Prov 17:19, for the one who “raises his door,” the metaphor for arrogance within the soul. The arrogant see no value in listening to anyone else’s opinion; especially God’s, and therefore get themselves into all kinds of trouble – ruin/destruction.
Yet, the second half of this passage reminds us of what we should be doing, “being humble,” ANAWAH עֲָנָוה.
Being humble means, we “do not think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think,” Rom 12:3. The one who thinks more highly of themselves than they ought to think, is the one who places himself first in everything he thinks and does.
Instead, we are to recognize that we do not “know-it-all,” and therefore actively seek out God and His Word for His wisdom, which gives the answers to life and life’s situations.
It means that we rely upon God and His Word for all situations in life. And when we do, we will be “honored,” KABOD, meaning, “honor, glory and wealth.” It speaks to the blessings and glory God pours out on to His children that are living and fully functioning inside of His family.
Prov 15:33, “The fear of the LORD is the instruction for wisdom, and before honor comes humility.”
This also gives emphasis to what our Lord noted in Mat 20:26-28, “It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Prov 18:13, “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.”
This is the fool of vs. 2, who speaks before he finishes listening to others, and cares only about what he has to say. It also applies to the judge in the courtroom who is ready to make a decision before hearing all side of the case, as we will see in vs. 17. It is another example of arrogance. This is the person who does not humble himself, nor has respect for the thoughts and opinions of others. As a result, he does not listen to them fully and is always quick to open his mouth, many times cutting off those who are speaking.
Attentive listening grows out of respect for others, applying AGAPE Love and grace, a quality that fools lack. Giving another person the time and silence to make a point, ask a question or request counsel, is not only a part of wisdom, but is one way of fulfilling the second greatest commandment, “to love your neighbor,” cf. Lev 19:18; Mat 22:39.
As the second half of the verse tells us, “it is folly” IWWELETH, and “shame to him,” KELIMMAH, כְּלִמָּה, a noun meaning, “insult, dishonor or reproach.”
Therefore, when you open your mouth too hastily, it demonstrates your foolishness and brings shame and dishonor to you. So let us do as the modern proverb tells us, “you have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion.” And as Prov 17:28 tells us, “Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.”
Prov 18:14, “The spirit of a man can endure his sickness, but as for a broken spirit who can bear it?”
Having previously noted this verse in relation to Prov 17:22, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones,” we see that we can overcome illnesses and sickness, but when our spirit is broken we are finished.
I recently saw the movie from the book, “Unbroken,” which Karen gave to me a few years back, about a WWII solider, Louis Zamperini, whose plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean. He and two others survived and floated on a raft in open waters for days. One eventually died but two endure for 45 days. They were then picked up by a Japanese naval ship. The two survivors were then taken to separate Japanese prisoner of war camps. Zamperini, an ex-Olympic athlete, who was also a Christian, endured beatings and tortures day after day. He and the other soldier survived to the end of the war when they were then set free. In speaking of his fellow prisoners, he said he could tell when one of his comrades was going to die. He could tell because their spirit had been broken, just as the spirit of the one soldier who survived the plane crash but not the 45 day ordeal in the open waters. Therefore, when your spirit is broken, who can bear it?, No one!, and it will lead to your death.
“Endure” here is the verb KUL that means, “to hold or sustain,” in the reduplicated final syllable Pilpel stem that is equivalent to the Piel stem for intensive actions. It means, “to sustain or endure.” Using the first meaning, “sustain,” this verse better reads, “the spirit of a man can sustain him in sickness.”
It is absolutely amazing to see what the human body can endure when our spirit is “unbroken.” Whether it be pain and suffering, illness, disaster, or tribulation, when we have God’s Word resident within our soul and walk in fellowship with Him, we can endure all things.
Phil 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Therefore, when we have the Balance of Residency, (Maximum Bible Doctrine in the Soul, Ready for Application, Plus the Filling of God the Holy Spirit), our human spirit filled with Bible doctrine will sustain our soul through all things. That is why the early Christians were able to endure, and sing joyfully to the Lord as they were being set on fire as torches for Nero’s parties, or torn apart by lions in the coliseum.
But when we allow sin and our emotions to rule our soul, then our spirit will be broken.
Many times a broken spirit is the result of a “sad heart” as in Prov 15:13, “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.” That means that we have allowed our feelings and emotions to take control of our souls, rather than God and His Word. When we get out of fellowship with God, our Old Sin Nature and emotions take over, which are dependent on our situation or circumstances. And when our circumstances are bleak, it leads to a broken spirit.
“Broken” here, and in Prov 15:13 and 17:22, is the Adjective NAKE / NAKA that means, “stricken, dejected or the defeated spirit.” When our spirit is dejected because of the circumstance around us, we are prime for defeat. As this proverbs says, “who can bear it?”, which is the Intensive Piel stem in the Imperfect for ongoing action of the verb NASA that means “to lift, bear or carry.”
Combined with the previous verses of this chapter, and in the light of the principle of not causing your brother to stumble, “this proverb encourages the wise to guard the well-being of others by considering (before they speak or act) the potential effect of their words and actions (cf. Prov 25:20; Lev 19:18.” (Complete Biblical Library Commentary.)
We now turn to the second section of this chapter, vs. 15-24.
Vs. 15-24, The blessings for the wise who strive for unity in righteousness.
This section begins with the headline of what is to follow.
Prov 18:15, “The mind (heart) of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.”
Now we focus on the wise and discerning believer who has Bible Doctrine resident within their soul and is applying it, in contrast to the foolish separatist. This passage is another exhortation to acquire more and more Bible Doctrine within your soul.
Here, the one who is “prudent / discerning” (BIN) already, will “acquire / buy” (QANAH) even more Bible doctrine / knowledge (DA’ATH) within their soul. As we have noted, doctrine builds upon doctrine.
The first half focuses on our motivation to learn God’s Word, it comes from Bible doctrine stored in the right lobe of your soul; the heart. And if our heart is broken or being led by the OSN or emotions, we will not have the proper desire or motivation to take in God’s Word. But when we are in fellowship with God, and His Word is cycling through our soul, it will lead us to be motivated to get more of it.
That is why it is important to be consistent with your intake of Bible Doctrine. When you get out of the routine, or start to miss church lessons here and there, or be lax in your face to face inculcation, it will open the door for your sin nature to tempt you to not come and take it in the way you should.
As the first half spoke of motivation, the second half speaks of application resulting in action taken. Here we see the intake of Bible doctrine through the ear gate. It tells us that the “wise” (CHAKHAM) “seek” (BAQASH) “knowledge” (DA’ATH). In other words, when you have doctrine in your soul that you are applying consistently, it will lead you to take in more doctrine.
The foolish separatist is lazy about their intake and application of Bible Doctrine. Likewise, to think that you are knowledgeable enough, and that you do not have to be so diligent to take it in, reveals arrogance in your soul, and either ignorance or the beginning of losing whatever knowledge you may have possessed, Prov 19:27; cf. Prov 1:5.
Yet, the child of God with wisdom, knows how important it is and values it above all else, making sure he is taking it in on a consistent basis.
As a professional believer and ambassador for Christ, you should be aware of the adverse affects of being slack in your intake of Bible doctrine, cf. vs. 9, and therefore be very diligent to take it in consistently; face to face preferably.
Prov 18:16, “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before great men.”
This verse is linked closely with the next verse.
“Gift” is the noun MATTAN, מַתָּן that means, “gift or present,” and is a softer word than “bribe,” SHOCHAD, that we noted in Prov 17:8, 23 that is condemned by God, cf. Prov 15:27; Eccl 7:7.
Here “gift” speaks of the legitimate giving of a present to someone in authority. In this case, the wise man is not trying to pervert justice, but is looking to open the door for legitimate discussion and fair trading, cf. Gen 32:20; 1 Sam 25:27. That is what is meant by “making room for him,” (RACHAB) and “bring him before” (NACHAH that means, to “lead or guide”), “great men” (GADOL).
So there is a legitimate time and place of gift giving in politics, business, etc. But the intention should not be corrupt to bribe someone, looking for a sweet heart deal or preferable treatment. It should be given in righteousness in appreciation of the person’s authority, and to try to open the door for fair and equitable trading and decision making.
Another application here is the legitimate gift giving or offerings given to the man, your Pastor-Teacher and church, who teaches you wisdom, so that you can continue to learn God’s Word through the ear gate.
Prov 18:17, “The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him.”
Combining with vs. 16 and vs. 13, here again we see the contrast between the foolish separatist and the wise. The separatist fool wants a “sweet heart deal” where there is no competition, but the wise desire for all to be heard in a matter.
“Examines” here is the Qal Perfect of the Verb CHAQAR, חָקַר that means, to “explore or examine.” So we call this the “cross examination” where both sides have a voice in the matter, providing for a fair and equitable judgment in righteousness.
In the courtroom for example, if only the guilty were able to tell their side of the story, they would be found innocent and set free. But the wise desire to hear all sides of the story before making a judgment.
In business, if only one contractor where able to bid on a job, the cost could be astronomical, but if competitors are also allowed to bid on the same contract, you have a better chance of arriving at a fair and equitable transaction.
As Prov 11:3 states, “The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them.”
Likewise, Prov 1:3 states that the result of receiving wisdom is to make decisions that are righteous, just and equitable. Prov 1:3, “To receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice and equity.”
And as we have noted previously in Prov 11:1, “A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is His delight.”
Prov 16:11, “A just balance and scales belong to the LORD; all the weights of the bag are His concern.”
The Lord desires fairness, righteousness and justice in all situations because it provides for and upholds unity among people. But treachery and falsehoods separates them!
In our next group of proverbs we begin with two pairs, vs. 18-19 and 20-21. The first pair speaks of how to bring reconciliation between two parties that can’t come to an agreement, and the second pair discusses the consequences, both positive and negative, when using our words for righteousness to unite people, rather than for evil to separate them.
Prov 18:18, “The cast lot puts an end to strife and decides between the mighty ones.”
This proverb begins with an interesting principle regarding “lots cast.” The Hebrew word is GORAL, גּוֹרָל which we noted in Prov 1:14; 16:33, is used to indicate a portion of something like land or sheep’s wool, or it is used as a decision making tool, like it is used here.
It was first used in scripture in Lev 16:8-10, for the choosing of the scapegoat and the sacrificed goat. That process spoke of the sovereign will of God to sacrifice His Son upon the Cross, so that those who would believe would be saved.
The OT never explains exactly what the lots were made of or how the lots were cast, but it seems that they were used to indicate an “either/or” or a “yes/no” answer. We also see the use of these devices for the selection of Matthias, Judas Iscariot’s replacement, in Acts 1:24-26, with the Greek word KLEROS.
Here we see that the casting of lots to break a stalemate in opposing opinions will bring an end to “strife,” which is the Noun MIDYANIYM, מִדְיָנִים. that means, “disputes or contentions.” It is a by form of MADHON, and is derived from DIN that means, to bring a lawsuit. So we see that even in a court of law, if there is a stalemate in a verdict or decision, the lot could be cast and the final decision would be agreed upon, as noted in the phrase, “put an end to,” which is SHABATH, that means, to “cease or rest.”
As we have in the second half of this passage, it “decides between the mighty ones,” where “decides” is our main topic word PARADH for “separates,” Cf. Prov 16:28; 17:9; 18:1. Therefore, it separates the contentions of powerful opponents and connotes making a desirable division in contrast to an undesirable alienation, which brings peace and harmony between them. When you separate contentions, it means you bring harmony and accord to the situation and people involved.
The casting of lots was a common practice of determining the will of God, and it would resolve disputes when no solution could be reached by any other means. The lot was used to settle any hidden matter that human beings could not uncover themselves. It was used to determine a matter where both sides had such strong arguments that it was impossible to reach a verdict.
This process shows great faith and trust in God’s Sovereignty, Justice and Righteousness, as well as, His Eternal Omniscience, relying upon the lot to fall according to God’s predesigned foreknowledge when our faith is placed in the Him, cf. Acts 1:24-26. When men understood that the casting of the lot was under the sovereignty of God, and were willing to abide by what it revealed, then “mighty opponents,” ATSUM, could come to resolution, even if they were unwilling to listen to anyone else, however strong, clever or wise.
Those who are wise understand by this verse that the lot can succeed where reason and logic fail, as it is linked to our next verse.
Prov 18:19, “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a citadel.”
“Offended” here is PASHA, פָּשַׁע in the passive Niphal stem that means, “transgressed against.” It means a sin or wrong has been done against him. Waltke suggests, “Perhaps this should be reduced to “to sustain a breach (of a brotherhood) through a perceived crime”.” (New International Commentary.)
As this verse notes, it is hard to be reconciled to a friend or brother you have wronged, by using the idiom, “from a strong city,” MIN OZ QIRYAH, in the analogy that we have seen previously of how hard it is to conquer a strong city. This is doubly emphasized in the second half with, “and contentions,” MADHON this time, “are like the bars” BERIYAH, בְּרִיחַ, “of a citadel,” ARMON, אַרְמוֹן, that literally means, “to be elevated” and comes to mean, “a castle, citadel, palace, or stronghold,” that is, an impenetrable fortress. So this is the friend, brother or relative who feels wronged, real or perceived and has cut himself off from the other.
The offending of a brother that causes contention speaks to a deep sense of personal injury. This injury is so deep that it is “hard to win him back over,” as hard as trying to penetrate a “fortified castle.” It tells us of the difficulty to penetrate beyond the psychological barriers he consciously erected to make himself invulnerable to any and every approach toward reconciliation.
When two people are at odds, and one or both are deeply offended by the other, this process of casting lots was used to reveal God’s selection of one of several possibilities. It was used where people either could not come to resolution or were kept in the dark as to what the final decision should be and needed an impartial verdict, cf. Prov 16:33. “It is better to let God, who sees hidden matters, settle a dispute that the judicial system cannot resolve through one throw of a tiny die, than to allow any violence, not just extreme violence, be the final argument.” (Waltke, New International Commentary.)
Likewise, when the guilty party could not be identified in a court of law, the lot could be used to isolate the offender and in that sense decide a person’s guilt or innocence. As a result, the “casting of the lot” brought peace and harmony even to the most contentious situations, when both sides were trusting in the Lord and sought him for a final decision. For those who abided by its impartial verdict, it added the spiritual virtues of self-denial, humility, patience, and faith, Josh 7:14-18; 1 Sam 14:40-42, 42; Jonah 1:7.
Therefore, these two proverbs assert that the lot can put an end to the conflict and that “there exists the possibility that confidence will be re-established, injuries forgiven and friendship renewed.” (McKane as quoted by Waltke, New International Commentary.) It also highly emphasizes the Faith-Rest life, placing your trust in the Lord to allow Him, by means of the lot, to determine the outcome. Could you imagine our court rooms using this method today? Or our business rooms, politics, etc. When you think about it in those terms, you realize just how untrusting and faithless we are today in the sovereignty of God.
Next we have another pair of proverbs, vs. 20-21 where we will see the consequences, good and bad, when using our words for righteousness to unite people, versus for evil to separate them.
Prov 18:20, “With the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach will be satisfied; he will be satisfied with the product of his lips.”
This verse speaks of not having “foot-in-mouth disease.” That is, you do not say the wrong thing, but say the right thing at the right time.
It begins by identifying Divine Good Production, which in this passage is our righteous speech, “the fruit of a man’s mouth.” When we speak in terms of wisdom from the Bible Doctrine stored in our heart, the right lobe of the soul, it “will be satisfying to our stomachs.” This idiom using “stomach” BETEN, means that our entire being, (body, soul and spirit), will be “satisfied / satiated” SABA, with the words that come forth from the doctrine in our soul.
In other words, we will not be at want to have done or said something else. What we have said was right for the moment and we are satisfied and at peace with what came forth. You will not want to take it back, feel you have to further explain yourself, feel badly about what you said or feel guilty about what you have said. It will be a right thing said, in a right way, at the right time.
The second half of this verse is just a reiteration of the first half, using SABA again for “satisfied,” and replaces PEH for “mouth” with SAPHAH for “lips,” and uses TEBUAH for “produce” versus PERI for “fruit.”
Prov 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
Here we see the dual consequences of what comes forth from our mouths, “death or life,” MAWETH CHAYYIM, which emphasizes the gravity or importance of the things we say. That is the “power of the tongue”, i.e., “in the power,” YADAH – hand, “of the tongue”, LASHON. That is why it is so important to speak rightly by applying the Bible Doctrine in your soul, versus saying things poorly, motivated by your emotions and Old Sin Nature.
Our words can have a destructive effect when we commit sins of the tongue like: lying, gossiping, maligning, slandering, bragging, bullying, or belittling others. On the other hand, our words can be invigorating and uplifting when we: encourage, exhort, rightly boast about others, correct, heal, restore and strengthen those around us. Many times we do not realize the impact of our words because we are too busy speaking and are not thinking about what we are saying, cf. Prov 12:18; 15:1, 4, 28; 25:11f.
In the second half of this passage, we have one line that is applicable to both types of speech, “those who love it, (AHEB), will eat, (AKHAL), its fruit, (PERI).” This phrase applies separately to both scenarios, as Waltke notes, “this is an oxymoron of eating the consequences in an exact correspondence to the way one speaks, cf. Prov 13:3; 15:23; 21:23.” (New International Commentary.)
As we say today, “You are what you eat.” But in this passage it would be, “You are what you say.” That is, if you love to function by your emotions and Sin Nature, that is what will come forth from your mouth, and in arrogance you will think that what you have said is ok, even though it is very hurtful and detrimental to others causing separation. But on the other hand, if you love the Word of God and have it within your soul that is what will proceed from your mouth and you will be satisfied with what you have said, especially when you see the positive effect it has on the lives of others.
In addition, this passage tells us that if you are producing death, (i.e., sin, human good and evil), you will reap death, (i.e., Divine Discipline). On the other hand, if you produce life, (i.e., Divine good production), then you will reap life, (i.e., blessings in time and eternity).
In Summary, we need to choose our words wisely, and not speak from the power of the sin nature. When we speak in terms of righteousness, we and others are benefited and blessed by our words. But when we speak from the sin nature we and others can be negatively affected by what we have said.
Prov 18:22, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.”
Continuing the discussion of unity verses separation, this verse exhorts our unity in marriage between a man and woman. Also following on the heels of several verses regarding speech, it eludes to the close relationship between our thoughts and tongue, (the words we speak), in terms of a harmonious marriage. We will address this verse in terms of the right man / right woman relationship.
The relationship between right man / right woman also is analogous to the Church’s relationship with the Lord, Eph 5:26-33, as this principle is repeated by the words of Lady Wisdom in Prov 8:35, “The one who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord.” It tells us that finding a good wife is on a par with finding wisdom.
“Finds” is used twice in this passage which is the verb MATSA in the Qal Perfect for the completed action of finding or meeting his “wife” / right woman, ISHSHAH, אִשָּׁה. It also presumes that the good wife, like Wisdom in Prov 8:34, has to be sought from the Lord. In other words, you do not have to go out and find her for yourself; instead you are to seek out the Lord to provide her for you.
Prov 8:34, “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doorposts.”
As Mat 6:33 notes, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
When a man finds his right woman, he has found a “good thing,” TUB, which is derived from TOB that means, “good”, and therefore TUB can mean, “something good, beauty, property, or blessing.”
This good thing, being a virtuous wife, is a blessing from God, as the second half tells us that he “obtains favor from the Lord,” where “obtains” is the causative active Hiphil stem in the Imperfect for ongoing action. In other words, the “Lord” YHWH, יְהָוה, causes the wife to be a continual “favor” to him, where “favor” is the Noun RATSON that means, “favor or pleasure.” RATSON is used in Scripture for the desires of living creatures that God satisfies, Psa 145:16. In Prov 8:35, RATSON is used in parallel to CHAY that means, “life,” and refers to harmony with God. Therefore, it means the enjoyment of all the blessings God wants for His people, Deut 33:23. So through the metonymy of “favor,” it identifies the Lord as the source of the good thing; the wife, cf. James 1:17.
James 1:17, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”
Therefore, when a man finds his right woman, she will be a continual blessing to him, as together they walk in fellowship and harmony with each other and with the Lord.
We also note that this proverb assumes that God is a rewarder of the man who fears him, and that reward is a wife of excellent virtue, Prov 31:10, 30.
Prov 31:30, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.”
The right woman is one of many grace gifts God has given to man. There are three prominent grace gifts from Christ given to man noted in scripture, and these are the order in which they occurred in the human race:
- Doctrine, He thought it, Gen 3:8; 1 Cor 2:16.
- Right woman, He built her, Gen 2:18, 21-25; Prov 18:22, 19:14b.
- Salvation, He did it, Gen 3:21.
Even though man fell, God did not change the relationship between the right man and right woman, and she has remained a blessing to him ever since, Prov 19:14; 31:10.
Prov 19:14, “But a prudent wife is from the LORD.”
Prov 31:10, “An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.”
The blessing of the Right man/right woman relationship is one of the most common relationships to the human race, and is therefore used to teach many types of doctrine and doctrinal relationships. For example:
- The Lord and Israel, Jer 2, 3, 13; Ezek 16, 23.
- The Lord and the Church, Eph 5:26‑33.
- Christ, the shepherd and bishop of the believer’s soul, 1 Peter 2:25-3:1.
- The mature believer is the glory of God, 1 Cor 11:7ff.
Monogamy was designed by God to remind the human race that there is only one right man for one right woman and visa versa, 1 Cor 7:2‑4, so that marriage would form the basis for stability in society, which rejects the theory and practice of anarchy, promiscuity, homosexuality, and communal living. Under these laws, marriage became the second Divine institution.
Marriage continues to be the protection of romantic love, Heb 13:4; 1 Cor 7:9; 1 Tim 5:14; Rom 7:2‑3; Gen 2:24‑25; Eph 5:22, 25, 28, 31, 33.
Once the couple is married, their relationship is maintained and blessed when they function towards each other with honor, integrity and impersonal love, which provides the power for the marriage to work.
How do you recognize your right man / right woman?
It begins by attraction that leads to personal love recognized by both parties. In that, the right man can always tell the mood of his right woman by her tone of voice and actions. The right man’s soul will have a total understanding of the right woman’s soul, emotions, moods, etc. He will recognize these signals, but his volition will determine how he responds to them, rightly or wrongly… hopefully rightly. Likewise, the right woman may love or hate her right man, but she cannot stop thinking about him. Therefore, it is virtually impossible for the right man/right woman to just be friends.
Every time the right man is with his right woman, it is a blessing to him, and your right woman will not react to you, but she should respond to you. Yet, if she is bitchy, it is an indication that she is your wrong woman, or that she has not learned to control the arrogance complex of sins in her soul. In addition, the wrong woman will always be dressing to show off what she has physically to everyone, rather than humbling herself and waiting on the timing of God to bring her to her right man. Choosing a wrong mate is also mentioned a few times in Proverbs, cf. Prov 11:22; 19:13; 21:9, 19; 25:24.
1 Cor 11:14ff. tells us that if a woman does not recognize God’s authority, she will never recognize her right man’s authority. Long hair on a woman is a sign of the right man’s authority over her. Wearing long hair is a sign that a woman is waiting for her right man.
The man can not work to get his right woman; it is a grace gift from God. God always brings the right woman to the right man. Grace takes up the slack before you find your right woman. Doctrine is your right woman until God leads her to you. And you do not even need to date others while waiting, but you can. With the right woman, there is a period of waiting, resisting temptation and a period of doubt before God brings the right woman to the right man.
As 1 Cor 7:8‑9 tells us, it is better to marry than to “burn in passion” (i.e., personal love), for the right man or right woman after you have made the soul identification.
The right man or right woman can make identification without touching. The right woman always emphasizes the soul of her right man when they first know each other. She is looking for his precious soul. The right man is the most precious thing to the right woman, but she emphasizes his soul and seeks out the Lord for that soul.
The right man/woman is someone who stimulates your soul. This is the only person who pulls you away from your own self‑consciousness into being more aware of them than yourself. You become more thoughtful of them, interested in them and more concerned and involved with them than yourself. A super-rapport develops where the two people can not wait to share what has happened while they were apart. They enjoy conversation, and even their silence has super-rapport.
Mentally this person becomes your frame of reference for everything. All memories are related to this person. Over a period of time, your norms and standards change so that this person is the honorable one, while other people are relatively insignificant. In your viewpoint, everything in life is related to that right man or right woman. From your volition, you adjust your life with pleasure to please your right partner. You dress to please them and omit things in life to please them. Your emotion has a fantastic response to them. The right man will fulfill the right woman’s norms and standards, and provide soul stimulation, while giving reality to her romantic dreams. All of this was designed by God for recognition of your right man or right woman.
Therefore, those who recognize their need for discernment in choosing a life partner and who therefore submit this aspect of their lives to the Lord, are encouraged that they will receive more than they seek, for a good spouse is a good gift from God and a sign of his favor, Prov 19:14b.
But also keep in mind that Paul recommends a better way of life to be fully engaged in the Lord’s business, and that is being single, 1 Cor 7.
Prov 18:23, “The poor man utters supplications, but the rich man answers roughly.”
Our final two verses regarding separation also introduce the main heading for Chapter 19; “Principles of the Rich and Poor Man,” which will be repeated in Prov 19:1.
This proverb turns from the intimate relationship of husband and wife, noted in vs. 23, to the polar relationships of the rich and poor.
This introductory passage speaks to the heart of the poor man that reaches out in supplications to others, especially his family and friends, to help provide for his urgent needs, in comparison to the rich man who turns a “cold shoulder” to those in need.
We begin with the “poor man” RASH, that is a derivative of RUSH that means, “to be in want or poor,” who “utters” DABAR, “speaks,” “supplications,” which is the Noun TACHANUM, תַּחֲנוּן, (takh-an-oon’), that means, “supplication, entreaty, earnest prayer or a supplication for favor.” Therefore, the poor man should be humble and sincere in his appeal to someone who has the power to grant a request to meet his needs.
TACHANUM is derived from the root CHANAN that means, “to be gracious or to show favor,” and means, in essence, “cries for favor.” It is also considered the “expressions of a mind beset with terror which does not have established formulations.” (Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the O.T.)
This word usually refers to the psalmist’s pleas for help from the Lord; e.g., Psa 28:2; 28:6; 31:23, but here it is a plea to those more fortunate than they are.
This word appears only once in the dedicatory prayer of Solomon, 2 Chron 6:21, and represents the outpourings of a troubled soul. It appears as a parallel to “weeping” in Jer 3:21; 31:9, and is used to describe Daniel’s period of prayer with fasting, sackcloth and ashes, Dan 9:3, 17f, 23. Finally, it occurs eight times in the Psalms, almost always in the phrase “my supplications.” Psa 28:2, 6; 31:22; 86:6; 116:1; 130:2; 140:6; 143:1.
It does not say directly who the poor man is entreating here, but given the second half of this passage it assumes he is asking a “rich man,” ASHIYR.
There we also see the rich man’s response, ANAH, meaning “answer” that is a “rough” one, which is the adjective AZ that means, “strong, powerful or insolent.” AZ means insolent, excessive or fierce when referring to a person’s attitude of anger or wrath, and when describing bold or arrogant speech, as it is here, it means, “arrogantly or insolently.” Therefore, we see the rich man’s response here as being rude, especially when he should be showing respect; that is impersonal love for his fellow mankind, Lev 19:18.
Regardless of a person’s socioeconomic status, we are to treat them without bias. AGAPE Love is impersonal and unconditional, and that is how we should treat both the poor and the rich, and not give over to favoritism.
As we have noted previously, other proverbs condemned the rich person for making wealth his “strong” city, Prov 10:15; 18:11, and this passage implicitly censors him for his “strong” (i.e., shameless, unyielding) response to the poor man’s cries and brushing him aside, cf. Prov 14:20-21.
These passages are not unrelated. Since the rich man’s own sense of security depends on his wealth, not on the Lord, he must defend “his city” against their pleas, which he sees as a siege on his wealth that he must defend at all costs. Waltke notes a Jewish proverb that says: “in order to chase away beggars one needs a rich person.”
The poor have no choice but to speak pleadingly, but the rich have an option as to how to answer, and so are accountable.
By contrast, remember that God hears the pleas of the needy, Psa 28:2, 6; 34:6, 15; 116:1, and the N.T. teaches that only the merciful obtain mercy, Mat 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
Once again we see that a proverb links poverty with innocence and prosperity with wickedness.
Prov 18:24, “A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
This proverb now focuses on the relationship of companions. It shows us a comparison between “run-of-the-mill” friends and true friends of virtue.
“A man of” ISH, too many “friends,” REA, comes “to ruin” RA’A. cf. Prov 19:4, 6f,
RA’A is in the Hithpael stem that is used for reflexive action that means the action produced by a man of many friends comes back to affect him, and in this case negatively, as it says, “comes to ruin” meaning, “being shattered, or being broken into pieces.”
RA’A is from the noun RA that means, “evil,” and is often used of committing sins against God, 1 Sam 12:25; 1 Chron 21:17. The participle means, “evildoers or the wicked” in Psa 37:1, 9; Prov 24:19. It is the opposite of doing good, Isa 41:23. In addition, this word includes all “bad” treatment of others that causes pain, suffering, harm, or trouble, Gen 43:6; Num 11:11; Deut 26:6; Ruth 1:21; Psa 44:2; 105:15. So we see the tie-in to vs. 23, as it carries the idea of being hostile toward someone. So here it means, “about to be shattered.”
Then in the second half we find the example of a good “friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
The comparison is regarding the rich man who has too many friends that are not trustworthy, do not really have his back, and are just along for the ride. The one who has those kinds of friends is “about to be shattered.” Yet, the man who has one or even a few close intimate friends “who stick closer than a brother” is blessed.
Prov 25:19 likens the fair-weather friend to an unreliable bad tooth and a lame foot, and Prov 11:13; 25:9 shows that misplaced trust can be misused in gossip.
Prov 25:19, “Like a bad tooth and an unsteady foot is confidence in a faithless man in time of trouble.”
“Sticks Closer” is the Adjective DABEQ, דָּבֵק, (da-veq), that is derived from the verb DABAQ that means, to “cling or cleave to” that was first used of the right man / right woman relationship of the husband and wife in the Garden of Eden. DABEQ is used only three times in scripture and denotes intimate relationships, though not in a sexual sense:
- In a spiritual sense, it depicts faithfulness to the Lord of Israel, Deut 4:4.
- The wings of the cherubs in the Holy of Holies were touching and thus joining, 2 Chron 3:12, (i.e. the intimacy of God’s worker elect angels).
- It depicts the steadfast companionship of an intimate friend, Prov 18:24.
So this friend will have your back at all times, as your relationship can be even closer than that of your own “blood relative / brother,” ACH. They will “stick to you through thick and thin.”
Prov 17:17, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
Here we see that one genuine friend is better than crowds of sycophants, (i.e., someone who praise rich or powerful people in order to gain an advantage), who will disappear at the first sign of trouble. Therefore, this verse underlines the importance of knowing well those with whom you form close relationships with.
So we see that the man of typical “run-of-the mill,” “flash-in-the-pan,” or “blood sucking,” friends is about to be ruined because he lacks one true friend in adversity. Yet, the man with one true friend can overcome even the greatest adversities of this life; and linked with vs. 22, that one friend many times is your husband or your wife.
Thus, the proverb implicitly warns the disciple against pursuing wealth and having pseudo-friends, or of belonging to their company, but exhorts him to pursue wisdom and pick his friends among the wise, cf. Prov 12:26; 13:20; 22:24; 28:7; 29:3.
This type of friendship whose loyalty transcends the solidarity of blood is realized in Jesus Christ, cf. John 15:12-15; Heb 2:11, 14-18.
Good separation – “Nothing is more clearly taught in the Scriptures than the need of a separation between the clean and the unclean—between those who love the truth and those who walk contrary to it. Separation from evil is imperative. He who would honor God must bow to this principle, whether it be to separate from evil friends, from ecclesiastical evil, or from evil business practices. The word is plain: “Come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17). The only proper course for a Christian who sincerely desires the Lord’s approval is to walk apart from all that is unholy. He must refuse fellowship to those who by their endorsement are partakers of the sins of others.” H.A. Ironside Expository Commentary – H. A. Ironside Commentary – Proverbs.
And as we have seen in this chapter, there is also bad or evil separation, where those who have separated themselves from God and His Word try to separate those who are currently united with God, His Word and His Children. Yet, the righteous man is to not be one who separates the righteous from righteousness, but instead tries to be a “uniter” of the unrighteous with the righteousness of God by bringing them the Gospel of peace and applying the principles found in Proverbs and throughout the Scriptures. Likewise, he is to apply the many doctrinal principles noted here and elsewhere, to maintain peace and unity among his fellow believers and his community at large, and to mend any broken relationships or thwart the threats to break relationships by apply the Wisdom of God’s Word in his speech and actions.