The Book of Proverbs
Chapter 20 continues with many principles of life application for those in business, rulers and the everyday person. Many scholars actually begin Chapter 20 with vs. 2, as they include vs. 1, with the final two verses of Chapter 19, (vs. 28-29), because they all speak to the “mocker or scoffer,” LETS / LUTS / LIYTS, that means “to boast, scorn, mock, deride, or imitate as to express utter contempt for someone or something.”
Although vs. 1 does continue the theme of the mocker, I am also going to use its main theme of drunkenness as the heading for the first section of Chapter 20 and as the backdrop for the entire chapter. So our outline will be as such:
Chapter 20 Outline:
Section 1, Vs. 1-9, Exhortations to not be a drunkard.
Section 2, Vs. 10-17, Principles regarding integrity in business.
Section 3, Vs. 18-19, Principles regarding wise leadership.
Section 4, Vs. 20-21, Principles regarding the treatment of your parents.
Section 5, Vs. 22-30, (including 21:1), Further principles regarding business and leadership.
Section 1, Vs. 1-9, Exhortations to not be a drunkard.
Prov 20:1 “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.”
Here we have several problems that arise from being drunk.
“Wine” is the Hebrew noun YAYIN, יַיִן that means, “wine or even drunkenness.”
We have noted YAYIN in Prov 4:17 in regard to the evil company we are to avoid because they perform all kinds of wickedness and violence, and in Chapter 9, vs. 2, 5, specifically for the temptress / adulteress woman, (a personifications of Satan and his cosmic system), who tries to lure us into a lifestyle of sin and lasciviousness.
Here we see that the wine is a “mocker,” spelled variously as LETS, LUTS or LIYTS which speaks to the controlling nature that wine, when drank in excess, has over the soul. We will see more of this below in the Doctrine of Drinking.
Then we have “strong drink,” the Noun SHEKAR, שֵׁכָר that means, “strong drink or an intoxicating drink, usually understood as some kind of beer.” This is the first time we have seen this word in Proverbs. It is derived from the verb SHAKAR that means, “to be drunk.” SHEKAR refers to any fermented beverage produced by grain, fruit or honey. Beer was a common beverage throughout the ancient Near East and was made from fermented barley, but this word represents both beer and other alcoholic beverages other than wine. Interestingly the “strong drink” of that day has an alcoholic content 7-10%, compared to today’s alcohols that contain anywhere from 40-100% alcohol content.
Of its 23 occurrences in the O.T., 21 are paired with YAYIN or wine. Its pairing with wine is used to denote all other intoxicating beverages. Thus, the noun seems to represent the totality of intoxicating beverages, exclusive of wine.
SHEKAR was used legitimately in two ritual contexts. It is found in the course of presenting the daily offering in Num 28:7 and it was to accompany the lamb which was to be sacrificed. Likewise, during a time of celebration, it was to be poured out.
But here, SHEKAR is said to be a “brawler,” the Qal active Particle of HAMAH, הָמָה that means, “to roar or make an uproar.” So “brawler” here is not necessarily someone who gets into a physical fight or wrestling match with another, but in the sense of someone who gets angry and starts to scream and shout, and / or argue loudly, just as the adulteress woman was of Prov 7:11; 9:13.
Combined, “wine is a mocker, and strong drink is a brawler,” indicates an addiction, or at least the mental incapacitation which accompanies drinking as will also be noted in Prov 21:17; 23:19-21; 31:4-5.
In the second stanza we have two warnings about drinking too much and becoming drunk, as it says, “and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.”
“And whoever is intoxicated by it” is WE KOL SHAGAH BO, that literally says, “and is totally straying or in err because of it,” where SHAGAH means, “to stray or be in err.” It is an idiom for intoxication or being drunk, where the root meaning tells us that being drunken means we are straying away from our fellowship with God, which means we are sinning and in error of our Christian walk.
Drinking does not accomplish this, as Prov 3:10 told us that wine and beer function as symbols of prosperity and the good life, as we will see in our doctrine on drinking, but drunkenness does.
Waltke notes, “The proverb protects itself against contradicting this favorable side of wine and beer by restricting it to the inebriated.” (New International Commentary)
Then the second warning tells us that the person who gets drunk “is not wise,” LO CHAKAM. Therefore, when we are drunk we are not cycling Bible doctrine in a right way.
Many think they can get drunk on alcohol or get high on drugs and still cycle doctrine. They are wrong. You may be able to speak about God and doctrine, but you are absolutely out of fellowship at that time and are performing at best human good, which has no intrinsic value. And because you are under the total control of your sin nature, error and deception will inevitably creep into your discussions about God and the Bible while drunk or high.
Waltke notes, “The drunkard lacks consciousness and self-control, and in dissolute madness breaks the bounds of sanctity, morality and propriety.” (New International Commentary)
Therefore, this proverb warns us not to get drunk or high because the arrogance that mocks others is antithetical to Biblical wisdom that lies in folly’s heart, which destroys both wisdom and life. It also warns against trying to reason with drunkards, since they will either mock or rage against wisdom, Prov 26:4; 29:9, and therefore it is better to wait until they are sober. Finally, the wise person tries to anticipate the consequences of their actions and avoids over-indulgence, recognizing that trouble usually accompanies drunkenness, Prov 23:20f.
Therefore, this leads us to the:
“Doctrine of Drinking.”
Drinking alcohol is not forbidden in Scripture but drunkenness is forbidden and condemned, and is described as a sin. For the believer, it indicates immoral degeneracy under the category of chemical sinning. Eph 5:18 emphatically prohibits drunkenness and the lifestyle of the drunk, as well as drug addiction.
Both the Old and New Testaments contain many examples and commands against excessive use of alcohol and drunkenness. Drunkenness is listed as one of the works of the flesh in Gal 5:21. That means it is the result of the undisciplined, indiscriminate use of alcohol. Jesus warned his followers not to be drunk in Luke 21:34.
Paul told the Corinthian church in 1 Cor 5:11, to “not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but cannot control his or her drinking.” This refers to people who will not face up to or will not even try to overcome drinking problems, not people who are working on and overcoming their problems. Likewise, no one who abuses alcohol should be ordained in the ministry of Jesus Christ, 1 Tim 3:3, 8; Titus 1:7. If a minister drinks, it should be in moderation.
In regard to the severity of God’s thoughts regarding those who consistently get drunk, the Bible says that drunkards will not enter the kingdom of God, 1 Cor 6:9-10, Gal 5:21, which is speaking about traits of the unbeliever, because we know that the believer, regardless of his sins, cannot lose his salvation, John 10:28-29; Eph 2:8-9.
Throughout the Bible, God criticizes those who are “heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks,” Isa 5:22, (as we may call them Chug-a-lugers, or Beercules), as excessive drinkers are committing evil, Prov 23:20-21, Isa 28:1-8, and those who “linger over wine” and spend a great deal of time in drinking, will find all kinds of woe, sorrow and trouble, Prov 23:29-35.
Wine is often linked with pleasure or prosperity in the Old Testament, Psa 104:15; Prov 3:10; Ecc 10:19, and was a normal part of feasts, as well as being used as a drink offering when worshipping the Lord, Ex 29:40; Lev 23:13; Num 15:5, 7, 10; 28:14.
In fact, Paul instructed the young Pastor Timothy in 1 Tim 5:23 that drinking wine in moderation is not sinful and that there are medical benefits from it. Therefore, we see that drinking alcohol in moderation is permissible, but alcohol in the sense of drunkenness and dissipation is forbidden. The fact that the Bible has a lot to say about drinking proves that drinking has long been an issue in history.
By drinking, you are not going to lose your salvation, it will not put you in hell, it is not sinful, and it is good under certain circumstances. But for those who had or have personal problems with drinking, it will cause you many difficulties.
Excessive habitual use of alcohol by the believer is detrimental to your body, soul and your spiritual life:
- The presence of large amounts of alcohol in the body changes the character and the personality of the drinker. One of the most serious problems of being a drunk is irreversible mental deterioration.
- It destroys your spiritual life, your relationship with other people, your physical health, and many other things.
- Being drunk, you can not execute God’s Plan for your Life, making you a loser believer.
- You become involved in immoral degeneracy and cannot be distinguished from an unbeliever.
Even though people use alcohol to get a high, it is actually a depressant and is chemically related to the ether used to put people to sleep. It dulls one’s reactions and even one’s conscience. As a depressant, alcohol cooperates with the various characteristics of the sin nature to lower standards of resistance in all categories of sin. When you are drunk, your integrity, judgment and honor are gone.
God uses several Bible characters to condemn drunkenness and show some of the problems it can create.
In Gen 9:20-23, the first time YAYIN or wine is used in Scripture, we see that Noah got drunk, (the Hebrew verb is SHAKAR, which also is used for the first time), from wine and took off his clothes as he fell asleep in his tent. His son Ham saw him naked and then went and told his two brothers, Shem and Japheth. In the ancient world, seeing one’s father naked was a breach of family ethic and the sanctity of the family would be destroyed as the strength of the father was made a mockery. Interestingly, this scene is a parallel to Adam and the woman in the Garden of Eden, who sinned, as demonstrated through their nakedness, with a resultant curse placed on future generations.
SHAKAR, שָׁכַר, meaning, “to be or become drunk,” is a verb that is also used metaphorically and indicative of either moral failure or coming Divine wrath. In addition, it is used as a metaphor for being powerless, unable to control oneself or coming to a point of mental stupor.
We also see Lot in Gen 19:32‑36, where as a result of getting drunk, his daughters committed incest with him. In addition, we see others like wicked Nabal, 1 Sam 25:36‑39, David getting Uriah drunk, 2 Sam 11:13, Absalom waiting for Amnon to get drunk to kill him, 2 Sam 13:28, Belshazzar receiving the writing on the wall after getting drunk, Dan 5:2, and the entire Northern Kingdom headed by Ephraim being drunkards and receiving God’s discipline, Isa 28:1. So drunkenness is a handicap to all, especially to those in authority, in both temporal authority, Prov 31:4‑5, and spiritual authority, 1 Tim 3:3, 8; Titus 1:7.
Excessive use of alcohol leads to crime, suicide, divorce, traffic accidents, economic and industrial losses, loss of health, poverty, national disaster, and for the believer it destroys your spiritual life. It is a depressant which lowers inhibitions, dulls reflexes, destroys common sense, hampers good judgment and stimulates mental attitude sins. Drunk drivers kill, drunk lovers abuse, drunk leaders lose integrity, and drunken women are seduced.
Drunkenness produces more than impulsive behavior and social tragedy; it also produces many diseases. Excessive alcohol affects the brain in many ways, including cerebral hemorrhage and delirium tremens. And “chug-a-lugging” is a sure way to kill yourself by anoxia, (inadequate oxygen reaching your brain or body tissue). It also attacks the liver, and one may suffer paralysis of the eyes, an unbalanced walk, and even coma can occur. All in all, it lowers resistance to sin, increases the desire to lie, destroys brain tissue, attacks the heart muscle, causes high blood pressure, and destroys the liver.
The Bible gives no encouragement and no excuse for excessive drinking. While drinking in moderation is permitted, there are many believers who cannot do so. For the believer who cannot or will not drink in moderation, he should avoid the use of alcohol except in medicine. When in doubt, abstain; for too much alcohol is toxic and detrimental to both the body and the soul.
1 Thes 5:6-8, “So then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. 7For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. 8But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.”
1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober, and be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
See also 2 Tim 4:5; 1Peter 1:13; 4:7.
Parts of the following outline and definitions are taken and adapted from the Mayo Clinic website regarding alcoholism at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcoholism/basics/definition/con-20020866.
Alcoholism is a chronic and often progressive condition that includes problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect that results in physical dependence, or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking. If you have alcoholism, you cannot consistently predict how much you will drink, how long you will drink, or what consequences will occur from your drinking. There are two types of excessive drinkers: those that drink large amounts in a short period of time, and those that drink constantly for days, both are considered alcoholics.
There is also another classification called “problem drinking.” It is possible to have a problem with alcohol, even when it has not progressed to the point of alcoholism. This may not be classified as alcoholism, but would also be counter to God’s Word and the mandates to not be a drunkard. Problem drinking means you drink too much at times, causing repeated problems in your life, although you are not completely dependent on alcohol. This would include, “binge drinking.”
Binge drinking is a pattern of drinking where a male consumes five or more drinks in a row, or a female downs at least four drinks in a row. It can lead to the same health risks and social problems associated with alcoholism. The more you drink, the greater the risks. Binge drinking, which often occurs with teenagers and young adults, may lead to faster development of alcoholism.
If you have alcoholism or you have a problem with alcohol, you may not be able to cut back or quit without help. Denying that you have a problem is usually part of alcoholism and other types of excessive drinking.
Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism, you may:
- Be unable to limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
- Feel a strong need or compulsion to drink.
- Develop tolerance to alcohol so that you need more to feel its effects.
- Drink alone or hide your drinking.
- Experience physical withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating and shaking, when you do not drink.
- Not remember conversations or commitments, sometimes referred to as a “black out.”
- Make a ritual of having drinks at certain times and become annoyed when this ritual is disturbed or questioned.
- Be irritable when your usual drinking time nears, especially if alcohol is not available.
- Keep alcohol in unlikely places at home, at work or in your car.
- Gulp drinks, order doubles or become drunk intentionally to feel good, or drink to feel “normal.”
- Have legal problems or problems with relationships, employment or finances due to drinking.
- Lose interest in activities and hobbies that used to bring you pleasure.
If you binge drink or have other problems with alcohol, you may have many of the signs and symptoms above, although you may not feel as much of a compulsion to drink compared with someone who has alcoholism. Also, you may not have physical withdrawal symptoms when you do not drink. But this pattern of drinking can still cause serious problems and lead to alcoholism. As with alcoholism, you may not be able to quit problem drinking without help.
If you have ever wondered whether your drinking crosses the line into problem drinking or alcoholism, ask yourself these questions:
- If you are a man, do you ever have five or more drinks in a day?
- If you are a woman, do you ever have four or more drinks in a day?
- Do you ever need a drink to get you started in the morning?
- Do you feel guilty about your drinking?
- Do you think you need to cut back on how much you drink?
- Are you annoyed when other people comment on or criticize your drinking habits?
If you answer yes to even one of these questions, you may have a problem with alcohol.
Causes of Alcoholism:
Alcoholism is influenced by genetic, psychological, social and environmental factors that have an impact on how it affects your body and behavior. The process of becoming addicted to alcohol occurs gradually, although some people have an abnormal response to alcohol from the time they start drinking. Over time, drinking too much may change the normal balance of chemicals and nerve tracks in your brain associated with the experience of pleasure, judgment and the ability to exercise control over your behavior. This may result in your craving alcohol to restore good feelings or remove negative ones. Nevertheless, alcoholism stems from the individual’s volition. They choose to drink in excess. It is a volitional responsibility.
Risk factors for alcoholism include:
- Steady drinking over time. Drinking too much on a regular basis for an extended period or binge drinking on a regular basis can produce a physical dependence on alcohol.
- Age. People who begin drinking at an early age are at a higher risk of problem drinking or physical dependence on alcohol.
- Family history. The risk of alcoholism is higher for people who have a parent or other close relatives who have problems with alcohol.
- Depression and other mental health problems. It is common for people with a mental health disorder such as anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder to have problems with alcohol or other substances.
- Social and cultural factors. Having friends or a close partner who drinks regularly could increase your risk of alcoholism. The glamorous way that drinking is sometimes portrayed in the media also may send the message that it is OK to drink too much. Drinking is an acceptable social drug, which makes is easy to abuse.
- Mixing medication and alcohol. Some medications interact with alcohol, increasing its toxic effects. Drinking while taking these medications can either increase or decrease their effectiveness, or even make them dangerous.
Alcoholism is chemical dependency guaranteed to destroy your life and the life of others with whom you associate. Over a period of time, alcohol abuse alters brain-cell function, induces nerve damage, shrinks the cerebral cortex, imbalances the hormonal system, depresses your central nervous system and damages vital organs. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions and affects your thoughts, emotions and judgment.
Scientists have also found that repetitive alcohol abuse wreaks a certain common havoc on the psyche that is perhaps even more insidious than the damage sustained by the liver, the heart and other vital organs. Too much alcohol affects your speech, muscle coordination and vital centers of your brain. A heavy drinking binge may even cause a life-threatening coma or death. In some people, the initial reaction may be stimulation, but as you continue to drink, you become sedated.
Physiological signs of intoxication include slurred speech, lack of coordination, unsteady gait when walking, euphoria, depression, and emotional instability. Psychological signs of intoxication include mood change, irritability, loquaciousness (talkative), impaired attention.
Excessive drinking can reduce your judgment skills and lower inhibitions, leading to poor choices and dangerous situations or behaviors, such as: motor vehicle accidents and other types of accidents, domestic problems, poor performance at work or school, and an increased likelihood of committing violent crimes.
During early and middle stages, alcoholics may be able to function, but their productivity will be progressively hampered; their psychological disequilibrium will magnify small problems and render them unable to cope effectively with stress. This altered state of psyche will prevent them from seeing the reality of a situation and thwart the normal process of emotional maturing that enables people to understand and learn from lessons of experience. The condition of alcoholics changes them into people who think, act and feel differently than they should. If you have problems with alcohol, you are more likely to also have problems with other substances.
Health problems caused by excessive drinking can include:
- Liver disease. Heavy drinking can cause alcoholic hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver. After years of heavy drinking, hepatitis may lead to irreversible destruction and scarring of liver tissue (cirrhosis).
- Digestive problems. Heavy drinking can result in inflammation of the stomach lining (gastritis), as well as stomach and esophageal ulcers. It also can interfere with absorption of B vitamins and other nutrients. Heavy drinking can damage your pancreas, which produces hormones that regulate your metabolism and enzymes that help digestion, and lead to inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).
- Heart problems. Excessive drinking can lead to high blood pressure and increases your risk of an enlarged heart, heart failure or stroke.
- Diabetes complications. Alcohol interferes with the release of glucose from your liver and can increase the risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). This is dangerous if you have diabetes and are already taking insulin to lower your blood sugar level.
- Sexual function and menstruation. Excessive drinking can cause erectile dysfunction in men. In women, it can interrupt menstruation.
- Eye problems. Over time, heavy drinking can cause involuntary rapid eye movement (nystagmus) as well as weakness and paralysis of your eye muscles due to a deficiency of vitamin B-1, (thiamine).
- Birth defects. Alcohol use during pregnancy may cause fetal alcohol syndrome, resulting in giving birth to a child who has physical and developmental problems that last a lifetime.
- Bone loss. Alcohol may interfere with the production of new bone. This can lead to thinning bones, (osteoporosis), and an increased risk of fractures.
- Neurological complications. Excessive drinking can affect your nervous system, causing numbness and pain in your hands and feet, disordered thinking, dementia and short-term memory loss.
- Weakened immune system. Excessive alcohol use can make it harder for your body to resist disease, making you more susceptible to illnesses.
- Increased risk of cancer. Long-term excessive alcohol use has been linked to a higher risk of many cancers, including mouth, throat, liver, colon, and breast cancer. Even moderate drinking can increase the risk of breast cancer.
Alcohol abuse and cigarettes are one of the worst possible combinations, greatly increasing the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Isa 5:11, “Woe to those who rise up early in the morning that they may pursue strong drink, and who stay up late in the evening that wine may inflame them.”
Rom 13:13-14. “Let us behave decently (walk properly) as in the day time, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and debauchery, not in strife and jealousy. 14But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”
Alcoholism and Your Volition:
Alcoholism is defined as a diseased condition due to excessive use of alcohol, although due to its cause of many physical aliments, which we have noted above, this may be an appropriate classification, but the problem with this definition is that it ignores the reality that no one ever takes a drink apart from their own volition. People drink or do drugs because they want to do it. All sin is a result of human volition. The Greek word ASOTIA in Eph 5:18, which is translated dissipation, means a wild and disorderly lifestyle, excessive drinking as a lifestyle. An alcoholic is a person who drinks alcohol habitually and excessively. Therefore, alcoholism is chemical dependence and part of Christian immoral degeneracy, and its effects on the body and the soul are a part of the Law of Volitional Responsibility, and can result in falling under the three stages of Divine discipline.
Alcoholic addiction begins with a series of bad decisions from a position of weakness, the carnal norms and standards of the conscience. Many believers do not make good decisions from a position of strength because they do not have enough Bible doctrine in their soul to have developed doctrinal norms and standards. If you do not have metabolized doctrine in your soul, you are going to make bad decisions.
The adjective alcoholic is defined as a person who is addicted to intoxicating beverage. Intoxication may be defined as maladaptive behavior due to recent ingestion of alcohol. Maladaptive behavior includes mocking, brawling or fighting, (verbally or physically), erring or straying as we have noted in Prov 20:1, or even impaired judgment and interference with social or occupational functions. These are all bad decisions that result from making a first wrong decision to drink excessively.
Because alcohol blurs effective insight into the way alcoholics look on things, it is often impossible for others to reach them about what their drinking is doing until they “hit the bottom” or are confronted with a serious problem. Victims are so dependent on alcohol to function or feel well that they feel there is nothing abnormal about their drinking, and they delude themselves, (perhaps one should say, lie to themselves), that they do not have a drinking problem. Many feel this way because they are not derelicts or “Skid Row” types.
Alcoholic dependence as a syndrome is the result of habitual drunkenness, but not the origin or cause. The cause or origin is always volition. Alcoholic dependency is alcohol controlling your life. It is not a disease that forces a person to drink, but a sin or a series of sins, the perpetuation of the sin of drunkenness. It results in disease, but is not the source of disease. The means of alcoholism is the individual’s function under the Law of Volitional Responsibility. Under the law of volitional responsibility, the believer inflicts on himself unbearable suffering through a series of bad decisions from a position of weakness. Those bad decisions come from the carnal norms and standards located in the conscience of the soul.
Volition is the key to understanding the problem of alcoholism, or any chemical sin. It is a matter of volition; you wanted to keep on drinking and you do. It is a matter of self-determination; disease results from it. It is the perpetuation of drunkenness to the point of self-destruction.
Drunkenness is the means of becoming an alcoholic. Drunkenness is a sin; therefore, sin is the source of alcoholism. It is not a disease but a sin, or a series of sins perpetuated on a continual basis. Therefore, when in doubt abstain.
An alcoholic can use his volition to start drinking until he suffers compulsion. Compulsion is a warning to quit now, abstain and stay on the wagon for the rest of your life. The believer manufactures the problems of alcoholic dependence through the function of his own volition. Alcoholism is a sin before it becomes a sickness and before it leads to other sins. The sin of drunkenness is intensified in alcoholic dependence. Therefore, to imply that alcoholism is simply a sickness in itself is to ignore its origin in the volition in the soul and its effects under the Law of Volitional Responsibility.
Alcoholism and the Law of Volitional responsibility is a major issue. While the believer becomes an alcoholic through the use of his or her own volition, there is a point of no return in recovery. Once alcohol dependence exists, there is an irreversible mental deterioration. The blind side of alcoholism is the fact that the alcoholic continues to drink and becomes addictive. His cells are adaptive and his tolerance is gradually increasing. His body is getting ready to betray him. He is going to come to the point of total dependency on alcohol, where his volition is now changed to, “I’ve got to have it; I want it; I cannot live without it.” His body will betray his volition as the tolerance is built up in the cells.
As the drinking increases from the function of human volition, alcohol has a very toxic effect. It disrupts the brain’s chemicals and electrical balances. This results in both psychological and emotional disturbances. Irrationality sets in, so that the person is no longer aware of the physical, mental and spiritual disasters which have overtaken him. This is where the Law of Volitional Responsibility has one of its greatest illustrations. Disease results from alcoholic dependence, and this disease status is the fulfillment of the Law of Volitional Responsibility. The Law of Volitional Responsibility is taught in the following passages:
Prov 22:8, “He who sows iniquity, reaps trouble; and the rod of his punishment will surely come.”
Hosea 8:7, “They sow to the wind; they reap the whirlwind.”
Gal 6:7, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a person sows, that will he also reap.”
Col 3:25, “He who does wrong will receive the consequences of that wrong and with God there is no partiality.”
Under the Law of Volitional Responsibility, self-induced misery is created by the soul’s volition. Hence, the result is wrong thinking, wrong motivation, wrong decisions, and wrong actions.
The Washington Post quoted a recent article in Pediatrics by Northwestern University professor Linda Teplin and her colleagues, who studied the violent side effects of alcohol abuse in young people, showed just how detrimental alcohol is in leading people to making even further bad decisions and committing violent crimes. The percentage of young people who had alcohol disorders and committed homicide was far greater than those who committed murder and were drug dealers, or those who were gang members, as the chart below depicts.
As the Washington Post put it, “When it comes to crime and violence, alcohol is THE MOST LETHAL SUBSTANCE IN AMERICA.”
H.A. Ironside notes, “Who can tell the agonies, the broken hearts, the blasted lives, the lost souls that have been the result of failure to heed the warning of the opening verse of Proverbs 20? No other vice has so cursed the world and caused such awful misery and suffering as intemperance. Those who laugh at jokes about drunkenness should go out after nightfall through the dark streets of our large cities to see the disastrous results of this vice. The wretched victims of alcohol have been numbered in hundreds of millions; yet Satan has no difficulty in persuading thousands of reckless youths to start on the same fearful road that has lured many to their ruin.” (H.A. Ironside Expository Commentary.)
Since alcoholism originates in the volition of the soul as a sin, it can only be cured by the use of that same volition in the soul. The start is the Rebound technique, followed by a willingness to choose abstinence. Abstinence requires the use of the same volition that started the habitual drinking to the point of alcoholic dependence.
Becoming a Christian alcoholic is a matter of your own volition. Alcoholism is created by your own volition. Alcoholism is created by individual self-determination. When alcohol takes over, the believer is no longer in control; the alcoholic beverage has now taken control. The believer’s volition is in control as long as he or she uses that volition to either abstain or drink in moderation. This is why the Bible teaches that either abstinence or moderate drinking is not a sin.
Calling the condition of alcoholism a disease is not necessarily a cop-out for alcoholics. But when alcoholics become aware of the far-reaching damaging effects of their condition to their own souls, minds, lives, families, and society, they have more responsibility, not less, for seeking treatment and abstaining from alcohol.
Three approaches to the subject of alcoholism:
- Abstinence: the function of human volition in voluntary self-restraint, refraining from imbibing in alcoholic beverage or taking drugs. Abstinence is not only commendable but a problem solving device of human volition related to both alcohol and drugs.
- Moderation: the function of human volition in keeping within reasonable and proper limits by avoiding extremes or excessive use of alcoholic beverage. There is no moderation in the use of drugs.
- Drunkenness: the function of human volition in the excessive use of alcoholic beverage, resulting in a state of intoxication or inebriation. It results in loss of control over both physical and mental function.
1) Alcoholism must not be solely defined as a disease; for this ignores the volitional cause of this chemical dependence.
2) Diseases of all kinds result from perpetual overindulgence and unrestrained use of alcohol. Your life depends upon how you use your volition.
3) We must distinguish between cause and effect. Volition is the cause, disease is the effect.
4) Alcoholism is a perpetual series of bad decisions from a position of weakness resulting in alcoholic dependence.
5) Alcoholic dependence results in both physiological and mental dependence, which obviously destroys the spiritual life.
6) Alcoholic addiction results in three categories of very serious problems.
- The spiritual problems which are related to Christian degeneracy.
- The physiological problems which are related to disease.
- The psychological problems which are related to mental illness.
7) Two basic solutions are offered by Scripture.
- For the unbeliever, the solution is the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- For the believer, the solution is the Problem Solving Devices of the Protocol Plan of God.
Eph 5:18-20, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”
Alcoholism Is Treatable
Thousands of alcoholics are helped to stop drinking every year. The chances of recovery are good if alcohol abuse or alcoholism is treated in its early or middle stages. Unfortunately, most alcoholics do not receive treatment. Over 90 percent of them will die as a result of their alcoholism. Most of them won’t die directly as a result of alcohol’s ravages to the organs of their body but to accidents caused by their drinking.
Proper treatment for the alcoholic must be more than a drying-out period and an interlude between binges of drinking. Treatment must be a well-designed program to get the alcoholics back on their feet and started in a new life of sobriety. They must learn how to cope with life and problems without alcohol. If alcoholics continue drinking, most will continue to deteriorate emotionally and physically.
Many alcoholics who recognize they have a problem have great guilt and embarrassment because of their condition. It is very difficult for them to admit they are different from others who can drink and enjoy a little alcohol. It is difficult to give up something that seems so essential to coping and feeling better in their lives.
Alcoholics, like all humans, vary in what moves and motivates them. Relatively few alcoholics stop drinking by themselves. If they do, it is usually related to some personal shock caused by their drinking.
Experience has shown that alcoholism alters rational thinking in most alcoholics as long as they remain drinking. The vast majority of alcoholics simply do not face the reality of their condition and cannot permanently stop drinking without help. Long-term or late-stage alcoholics need professional treatment. Quitting “cold turkey” for these people could cause withdrawal symptoms that could be life-threatening.
The overwhelming preponderance of experience indicates alcoholism is rarely, if ever, totally cured. Most alcohol experts have found, for practical purposes, that once the “addiction switch” to alcohol (or any other addictive drug) is thrown “on,” it rarely returns to “off,” even after years of abstinence from the drug. This is why alcoholics in treatment are educated to call themselves a “recovering alcoholic.” They can never safely return to even moderate social drinking.
All successful drug abuse treatment programs have the same goal: to help drug-dependent people become and remain drug free. It is important to stress drug free. Once people become addicted to alcohol, they are highly susceptible to addiction to all other drugs that work on in a similar fashion. Recovering addicts must beware of all potentially addictive substances.
Organizations like AA and their 12 step program, and others, have very successful programs that lead to recovery from alcoholism. One such program is the “SMART Recovery” program which provides its members with tools and support that they can use to help them recover from addictions – be it alcohol, or other drugs or negative behaviors. Their program is a 4-Point Program® designed to help you overcome your problems with abusing alcohol and quit drinking. It includes:
- Building & Maintaining Motivation – Help you to identify and keep up with your reasons to quit. Why do you want to stop drinking – what will keep you focused on that goal?
- Coping with Urges – Dealing with urges and cravings is important to your recovery. You must learn how to cope with urges to drink alcohol in order to maintain abstinence.
- Managing Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors – People frequently turn to using drugs to either escape from or avoid addressing problems. You need to learn the problem-solving tools to help you manage the various challenges along the way.
- Living a Balanced Life– When you abuse alcohol, your life frequently falls out of balance – you may find yourself opting to drink rather than go to work or school. You may find that things you once enjoyed are not fun anymore. You need to learn the skills necessary to balance both short and long-term goals, and the pleasures and needs that were once out of balance due to drug abuse.
Each of these steps in conjunction with the application of God’s Word can lead you to full recovery and spiritual advancement once again.
Drinking and the Laws of Christian Behavior:
As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and a member of the Royal Family of God, you have an even higher calling in regard to your conduct and daily walk, compared to the unbelievers of this world. Not only are you obligated to live by the Royal Family Honor Code (RFHC) for the Church Age believer, but you also have no less than four laws of Christian behavior by which you must live, as noted in 1 Cor 8-10. As such, if you have a problem with any category of sin in your life, including drunkenness, you are obligate to overcome that category of sin, and live by the RFHC and the Four Laws of Christian Behavior. If you are drunk on a consistent basis, you are unable to fulfill these laws as part of your Christian walk. Therefore, it is imperative that you overcome the sin of drunkenness within your life by first Rebounding, (1 John 1:9), then relying upon and trusting in the filling of God the Holy Spirit, then consistently take in God’s Word, and finally, consistently apply His Word including the application of the 11 Problem Solving Devices, the Royal Family Honor Code and the Four Laws of Christian Behavior. In addition, you need to actively seek out and participate in any appropriate treatment or programs you may need.
In regard to the Four Laws of Christian Behavior, these are important reminders of what your personal responsibility is towards yourself, those around you and God that should provide motivation to stop drinking and be sober with the filling of the Holy Spirit.
The Four Laws of Christian Behavior
- The Law of Liberty, 1 Cor 8:4, 8-9.
1 Cor 8:4, 8-9, “Therefore, concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols. We know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and there is no God but one. But food will not commend us to God. We are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor are we any better if we do eat. Take care, lest this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to the weak.”
The Law of Liberty is directed toward self. Biblically the believer has a right to do certain things which are not sinful, and will not tempt the strong believer to sin. The Law of Liberty says that every believer has a right to drink a moderate amount. Yet, in regard to 1 Cor 8, new believers and believers without doctrine only have carnal norms and standards in their conscience. Therefore, the Bible says they have a weak conscience. The weak conscience makes a taboo out of wine and food which had been sacrificed to idols in the meat market of the heathen temples. They have set up false criteria for spirituality. A weak conscience substitutes taboos for the doctrinal norms and standards it does not possess.
On the other hand, the enlightened (mature) believer thought nothing about eating and drinking the food and wine from the temple meat market, because there is not a command against it. Nevertheless, the enlightened believer has a responsibility not to offend the ignorant believer as long as it does not encourage legalism. If it is a new believer, then the liberty of the mature believer could become a stumbling block when the new believer witnesses the mature believer partaking of the meat. Therefore, the mature believer is obligated to abstain from eating the meat in the presence of immature believers who are not yet enlightened to the liberty that God has given to them in the Church Age. In addition, if the mature believer’s abstinence encourages legalism, then the mature believer has no responsibility to not offend the legalistic believer. In other words, he should eat the meat in their presence to teach them about the freedom and grace they have been given.
In regard to drinking alcohol, if you are in the presence of an alcoholic who cannot control their drinking, then by obligation you too should not drink, even though you have the right to drink. In addition, if you are drinking in the presence of a non-alcoholic, but legalistic person who believes any drinking is a sin, then you are not under obligation to stop drinking and should use your responsible drinking as a teaching opportunity. Finally, if you are an alcoholic, you should never drink, especially in the presence of new or immature believers.
- The Law of Love, 1 Cor 8:13.
1 Cor 8:13, “Therefore, if food makes my brother to stumble, I will not eat food again, that I might not cause my fellow Christian to stumble.”
The Law of Love is the function of Impersonal Love toward all believers, including legalists. This is impersonal love toward the “weaker brethren.” The Law of Love says to refrain from your liberty as a Christian when it leads a weaker believer astray. The Law of Love avoids offending or putting a stumbling block in front of a weaker believer by doing something legal like eating meat or drinking alcoholic beverage. The Law of Love is generally directed toward new believers who are ignorant of doctrine or toward believers who are distracted by legitimate functions. The only danger in the use of the Law of Love is compromise with legalism. The legalist seeks to establish tyranny over those who drink in moderation.
Therefore, if you are an alcoholic, out of love for your fellow believer, you should abstain from drinking in their presence because your drinking could lead them to commit various mental, verbal or overt sins, including the sin of judging you wrongly.
- The Law of Expediency, 1 Cor 9:16-23; 10:23.
1 Cor 9:23, “And I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I may become a fellow partaker of it.”
The Law of Expediency is directed toward the unbeliever. It says that it is expedient not to drink when witnessing, or when drinking becomes an issue to an unbeliever. There are times when the unbeliever will superimpose certain standards on the believer, and expect him to comply with those standards because he is a Christian. Every believer is a minister of reconciliation and must refrain from doing things, not because they are wrong, but because they prevent some unbeliever from seeing the true issue of salvation.
The Law of Expediency is related to the function of the believer as a witness for Jesus Christ. It is expedient not to drink under certain conditions where the believer is witnessing because it becomes a stumbling block to the one hearing the gospel. When in doubt, abstain. And remember that your witness is not only with your words but with your life / behaviors.
- The Law of Supreme Sacrifice, 1 Cor 9:1-15.
The Law of Supreme Sacrifice is directed toward God and relates to several of the Problem Solving Devices of the Predesigned Protocol Plan of God, i.e., Personal Love for God the Father and Occupation with Christ. This is the highest law of Christian behavior. It generally applies to mature believers to forsake normal living and legitimate functions in life in order to serve the Lord in some special way. Paul functioned under this law in 1 Cor 9:1-15.
1 Cor 9:4-6, “Do we not have the right to eat and drink? (Yes, we do!) Do we not have the right to take along a Christian wife like the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? Or do only I and Barnabas not have the right to refrain from working.”
Paul had the right to eat and drink anything he wanted, get married and stop working. But he did not because of the Law of Supreme Sacrifice.
Under the Law of Supreme Sacrifice a few normal things in life are set aside when they interfere with concentration on a special ministry or leadership function in life.
As Solomon noted in Eccl 2:13, “And I saw that wisdom excels folly as light excels darkness.”
Therefore, let us have the wisdom to abstain when necessary and partake when profitable!
Having noted the problems caused by excessive drinking of alcohol, as noted by the mocking, brawling and unwise drunkard of vs. 1, we now see further consequences of drunkenness, in vs. 2-9.
In Prov 19:24-20:1, we were given a catalogue of fools and foolish behaviors, and in Prov 20:3-6, we will see another catalogue of fools including the quarreling fool, vs. 3; the deluded sluggard, vs.4; the conniver, vs. 5; and the hypocritical masses, vs. 6. This second group is sandwiched between a royal framework, vs. 2 and 8, where we see the king dealing with the fool and foolish, as they are handed over to the king, God’s surrogate, for discipline, cf. Prov 16:1-9, with vs. 10-15.
Prov 20:2, “The terror of a king is like the growling of a lion; he who provokes him to anger forfeits his own life.”
This is one of four verses in Chapter 20, (vs. 8, 26, 28), instructing the “king,” those in ruling or leadership positions, in wise behavior. In each of these verses we see an aspect of his authority in bringing swift and righteous judgment against the fool and/or criminal. In each verse, the background issue is the drunkard, as you know from the heading of this chapter, and the various acts of foolishness he gets himself into that must be dealt with inside the legal system. And as noted above, those with legal authority in a society act as a surrogate for God, thereby being the messengers of Divine discipline, cf. also Rom 13:1-7.
This verse, along with Prov 19:12, were potentially the inspiration for Peter’s mandate in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober, and be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Peter is speaking in regard to the spiritual warfare that all believers are a part of that we must be prepared for. Yet, if we are habitually drunk, we will not be prepared for the roaring lion of Satan’s cosmic system, and instead will succumb to the outward pressures of life that become inward stress on the soul. Having stress upon the soul is a main reason why people turn to drugs and alcohol in the first place.
Therefore, Peter’s command to be sober and be on the alert means the same thing that Paul stated in Eph 6:10-18, to pick up and put on the full armor of God because our struggle is against the “rulers, powers, world forces of darkness, and spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places,” which describes the various levels of hierarchy inside of Satan’s demonic forces of his cosmic system.
In order to combat them we need to have the 11 Problem Solving Devices (PSD) found in the Word of God guarding our souls. They include: Rebound, Filling of the Holy Spirit, Doctrinal Orientation, Faith Rest, Grace Orientation, Authority Orientation, a Personal Sense of Destiny, Impersonal Love for Man, Personal Love for God, Occupation with Christ, and Sharing in the Happiness of God.
When we have the PSD’s ready within our soul, we will not allow the outside pressures of life to become stress within our souls. As a result, we will not have to turn to drugs or alcohol to numb our senses to those things, and instead will have inner peace, happiness and contentment.
As Peter and Paul warned and taught us how to overcome the attacks of the powers and authorities of Satan’s cosmic system, Solomon warns us through the “roaring lion” imagery how to not place ourselves under the punitive power and authority God has ordained rulers to wield over our lives, if we give into the temptation of our sin nature and/or Satan’s cosmic system, and get drunk and cause harm to others because of our resultant foolish actions.
Peter’s comparative was to be sober, not drunk from alcohol, so that you would be in fellowship with the Holy Spirit and have Bible doctrine cycling through your soul. As such, you can withstand the temptations and afflictions that Satan’s cosmic system throws at you and be an overcomer; a winner believer.
The comparison of a “roaring lion” in the Greek of 1 Peter is HOS LEON ORUOMAI, (like a lion roaring). In our verse the Hebrew is NAHAM KE KEPHIR, (roaring like a lion). This phrase was also used in Prov 19:12 for the king’s wrath. In both instances it speaks to the “shock and awe” affect that comes from breaking the law and falling under the king’s wrath in judgment against us. Without God’s Word in our soul, we will easily succumb to the temptations of our sin nature and/or Satan’s cosmic system and break societal laws that receive the shock and awe of punitive judgments against us.
The “roaring lion” of Proverbs is the “terror of the king (MELEK).” “Terror” is the Noun EMAH, אֵימָה that means, “terror, dread, fear, horror, or to be frighten.” Its root word is AMAH that means “to terrify.” EMAH is used here for the dread of the wrath of an earthly king, or someone in authority, who has the power of life and death, Prov 16:14f, as it says in the second half, “he who provokes him to anger forfeits his own life.”
The Hebrew uses ABAR CHATA NEPHESH to re-enforce the king’s roar by explaining the metaphor. There are two potential interpretations that do not significantly differ. The first is, “Whoever angers him,” (i.e., makes the king flare up, Prov 14:16), “is one who forfeits his life,” (literally “to miss his life,” cf. Prov 11:31), and the other interpretation is “who wrongs or sins against himself,” (cf. Prov 6:32; 8:36). The two interpretations do not differ significantly, because sin entails the loss of life, Prov 10:16; cf. Hab 2:10. And the phrase, “roaring lion,” suggests death is in view.
The dreadful “roar” of the king is no empty threat, and the other royal proverbs suggest that the surrogate’s roar is in fact God’s roar. Therefore, we see the consequences of drunkenness, which is self-induced misery that leads to Divine discipline. Fools would be well advised to appease the surrogate’s roar immediately, cf. Prov 16:14, but they have no sense to do so because they are drunk. That point is noted in our next verse.
Prov 20:3, “Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, but any fool will quarrel.”
In the second half of this verse we have the “quarreling fool,” GALA EWIYL, (i.e., drunken mocker / brawler). Solomon uses the Hebrew verb GALA, for “quarrel” in the reflexive Hithpael Imperfect that essentially means “to keep on breaking out.” This means, the fool does not have control over his thoughts, words or actions, and the evil within him keeps on breaking out. It occurs just three times in the O.T., all in Proverbs and in the Hithpael stem. In each case, the extended meaning is “to quarrel,” which is a verbal sin.
In Prov 17:14 we noted that it asserts “the beginning of strife is like letting out water, so stop before the quarrel breaks out.”
We also noted the obscure passage of Prov 18:1, where an understanding of the Hebrew says, “The loner quarrels with all who have sound judgment.”
Likewise, in our verse it declares, “It is honorable to refrain or keep away from strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.”
Since the drunk is quick to quarrel, mock or verbally brawl, his actions are quite dishonorable and he deserves punitive discipline, as was noted in vs. 2. Therefore, we are exhorted in this verse to “keep away from strife.”
“Keep away” is an interesting word here. It is not the typical words for “keep away,” NATSAR or SHAMAR with the negative LO. Instead it is SHEBETH, שֶׁבֶת, which means, “cessation.” It is used only four times in the O.T. and is most likely from the root word SHABAT that means to “rest or cease.”
It is a masculine noun indicating, “a loss of time, or a ceasing,” and indicates literally a sitting or a time of recovery, or inactivity, Ex 21:19. It is also used for a refusal to become involved in something or a holding back, as here.
“Strife” is once again RIB that means “contention or a lawsuit,” cf. Prov 15:18; 17:1, 14; 18:6, 17, meaning a transaction in a court of law.
In other words, it is “honorable,” KABOD, “to stay out of the court room,” or using the sitting metaphor of SHEBETH, “to stay out of jail.”
Therefore, we are exhorted to possess the virtue of patience and forbearance, which is a constant theme of Proverbs, cf. Prov 12:16; 14:29; 15:18, 28; 29:11.
Waltke notes, “The wise are more concerned to bring peace than a desire to be right, but the fool cannot restrain himself and at the first opportunity explodes and shows his teeth. This demeanor to forego defending one’s pride when insulted demands that one be humble and submissive, not a rash hot-head who trumpets his refusal to submit to anyone (cf. 10:12; 12:16; 14:29; 15:18; 17:27, 28; 19:11; 29:11; cf. Jas. 3:13-18).” (New International Commentary)
Prov 29:9, “When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man, the foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest.”
Prov 20:4, “The sluggard does not plow after the autumn, so he begs during the harvest and has nothing.”
Here we have the second type of fool, the deluded sluggard. It is another passage regarding the “sluggard” which we will review below. The Hebrew word is ATSEL, עָצֵל, the Adjective meaning, “idle or lazy,” the indolent behavior patterns. This time the sluggard is linked to the excessive or abusive drinking of alcohol that results in laziness, where he does not perform the tasks or duties necessary to provide for himself or his family.
The task in view here is plowing the field after the recent harvest to prepare the soil for the winter planting and spring harvest. As we have noted, Israel has two growing seasons, unlike the one growing season we have here in the Northeast. Therefore, once the fall harvest was brought in, the next task was to plow the fields in the winter in order to plant for the next season. If he does not plow, he cannot sow seed. If he does not sow seed, he cannot harvest in the spring time.
“Does not plow” is the negative particle LO with the Qal Imperfect of the Verb CHARASH, חָרַשׁ that means, “to plow, to be silent or to be deaf.” This phrase has been used extensively thus far in Proverbs figuratively to mean, “not devising a plan, to devise an evil plan or to not keep your mouth shut when you should.” This final use of the verb in Proverbs uses its literal meaning of plowing a field; in this case, “he keeps on not plowing” when he should.
The time of this plowing is CHOREPH, חֹרֶף that means, “winter.” This fits the period of December through the first part of February. These months are termed the “rainy season” in Israel, Ezra 10:9, 13; a great time to have planted seed so that it grows well. Yet, the sluggard procrastinates because of the weather. He whines and complains that it is too cold or too wet to go out and plow. He makes all kinds of excuses for his inaction, why he cannot do this or that, and his unpreparedness. Consequently, he does not bring in a harvest and as a result he will suffer.
Vernon McGee, notes humorously, “It reminds me of the man whose house had a leaky roof. The reason he didn’t fix it was because he didn’t want to work on it when it was raining, and when it wasn’t raining it didn’t need fixing.” (Thru The Bible)
So we have the sluggard who can always justify his refusal to work, Prov 26:16, “The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can give a discreet answer.” In addition, he cannot discern the need of the moment because he is more interested in his own immediate comfort than the work that must be done. The long-term effect of this neglect; however, is a life reduced to beggary, cf. Prov 20:13. This character is typical of all who want excellence without putting forth the effort.
As we have seen, the sluggard will have many problems.
- As Prov 6:6, 9 told us, they will always fail in the spiritual life, because their laziness results in moral failure.
- Prov 13:4 showed us that their souls want nothing in terms of Bible Doctrine, and therefore they get nothing.
- In Prov 19:24; we see that because they take no initiative to learn God’s Word.
- Prov 20:4 shows us they will not do their tasks on time, and therefore will not fulfill God’s Plan for their lives.
Ater we will see that:
- They will not “do their job” in the spiritual life, Prov 21:25,
- They always create imaginary excuses for why they cannot do this or that, or why they did not do this or that for God, Prov 22:13.
- Their spiritual prosperity and physical health will deteriorate, Prov 24:30;
- Due to the arrogance within their soul, they consider themselves wise or a spiritual giant, Prov 26:13-16, when in fact they are not.
As a result of the drunkard’s laziness, “he begs during the harvest and has nothing.”
“He begs” is the Qal Imperfect of the Verb SHA’AL, שָׁאַל that means, “to ask, inquire, request, or beg.” It is used over 170 times in the OT, but here it is the first of only two occurrences in the book of Proverbs, in regard to the begging for the sluggard’s needs.
The time of this begging is “during the harvest,” BE QATSIR, קָצִיר that means, “harvest or when the crops come in.” And when the time for harvest has come, this drunken sluggard “has nothing,” AYIN, meaning there is no food on the table. So because the drunken sluggard did not do what he was supposed to do, when he was supposed to do it, he has placed himself and his family in peril, and is forced to beg others for his needs. He has been brought low because of his own inaction.
Prov 20:5, “A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out.”
Although this proverb sounds very inspiring, here we see the forth type of drunken fool; the conniver.
“A plan, ESAH, in the heart, LEB, of a man, ISH, is like deep, AMOQ, water, MAYYIM.” It uses the analogy of water deep in a well that is often invisible from the well’s mouth, to explain the motivations and schemes of the foolish man. This phrase, based on the context of the second half of this verse, indicates the hidden motivations and schemes of the drunken fool. It signifies the foolish man’s thoughts and plans as paradoxically unfathomable, inaccessible, non-beneficial, and potentially dangerous. It is that which a man has “secretly planned in his heart. He keeps it secret, conceals it carefully, and craftily misleads those who seek to draw it out.” (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament.) It means that one’s motives are difficult to “fathom,” and speaks to the hidden agendas the drunk has to conceal his methods and ways, and/or the motivations behind his drinking in the first place.
As the second half tells us, “a man, ISH, of understanding, TEBUNNAH, draws it out, DALAH.”
This is the one who has the wisdom of Bible doctrine flowing through his soul that leads him to have insight, discernment and understanding to know what is going on in the life of the schemer.
DALAH, דָּלָה, literally means, “to draw water,” especially as here in the Qal stem, which fits the metaphor here, and speaks to the insight and discernment the wise believer has. In Psa 32:2 it is in the Piel stem and means, “to draw up (from the deep) to save.”
A man’s real intention may be hidden, but a wise person is able to penetrate and discern his inner thoughts. Often the discerning person is able to “draw out” the hidden motivations and schemes of others, so as not to be caught off guard or by surprise. He understands the potential moves and counter moves of the fool who is trying to cover up his issues and problems, as well as his schemes to take advantage of others.
The passage also shows how important good counseling is, especially for those who desire to recover from their alcoholism, because they may not be aware of their inner motivations to drink in the first place. Therefore, when they seek the wise counsel of others, (the mature believer), the wise believer may be able to help them discover their hidden motivations for drinking excessively and help them to recover and be saved.
Proverbs 20:6, “Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, but who can find a trustworthy man?”
The fifth type of fool is now escalated to a group, the many hypocrites or the hypocritical masses, cf. Prov 12:9; 20:25; 25:14; 27:5-6.
“Loyalty” is the Noun CHESED that means, “grace, mercy, kindness, steadfast love, or loyalty.” It is used here for the false boasting of “many a man,” ROB ADAM, who says one thing, but does another, cf. Prov 25:14; Mat 6:2; Luke 18:11. They boast about their deeds and actions, or love that they have for others, including God, but their actions clearly show that they truly do not love or show grace, kindness or mercy.
In the second half, we have the exasperated futile call, “who can find, MATSA, a trustworthy man?” This is like King Richard’s call, when faced with defeat on the battle field, “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!” This Proverb’s rhetorical question expects the answer, “none, no one or hardly anyone.” It is like Solomon’s plea, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”
“Trustworthy” is the Noun EMUN that means, “trustworthiness, faithfulness or dependability.” Used only five times in the O.T., it is used to signify the rare and beneficial quality of trustworthiness in an individual, Prov 13:17; 14:5; 20:6. It can also be used synonymously with CHESED. It contrasts the boastful fool with the rare and precious conscientious person who truly acts in time of need.
It exhorts us with the repeated counsel of Proverbs to choose friends carefully, since companions shape each other’s thoughts, Prov 27:17, and eventually, the course of our lives, Prov 13:20; 22:24f; 28:7, especially if we have a drinking problem, because we should not associate with those who will lead us down the wrong path once again.
So we see the many hypocrites versus the one very rare and precious reliable person, of whom the former “proclaims his kindness” versus the later “conscientious person” who performs it. It gives us insight into the hypocrisy of human nature and aims to instruct us to seek diligently the rare friend who has the rocklike quality of being conscientious in unfailing kindness, and to be one ourselves.
In vs. 6 we noted the virtue of the “faithfulness” of a good friend. In the following verses we will see more virtues that the believer should possess including in vs. 7, integrity; vs. 8, dispersing all evil; vs. 9, trusting in Christ’s sacrifice; vs, 10, honesty in business; vs. 11 distinguished by our works (Divine Good Production); and vs. 12, using your head, (application of Bible Doctrine). God has given you ears, and He has given you eyes. “Look and listen. That is not only good advice before you cross a railroad track, it is good when you are facing life every day.” (J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible.)
Prov 20:7, “A righteous man who walks in his integrity, how blessed are his sons after him.”
The virtue of Integrity: Cf. Prov 19:1
Based on the principle of Ex 20:5-6, “integrity” is the Noun TOM once again that also means, “completeness, sincerity, moral and wise character, (Gen 20:5; Psa 26:1; 78:72), innocence of willful wrongdoing and having a clear conscience in a relationship, (2 Sam 15:11), consistent honesty and moral behavior, and wholly desiring to live in complete harmony with God and others. It is sometimes translated as upright or righteous in Proverbs, and here the “righteous man,” TSADDIQ, “walks,” HALAK, this way, meaning his daily lifestyle and actions are filled with integrity.
In other words, he is a person of character and honesty. What does it really mean to walk in integrity? What is integrity and how does it really affect a person’s life?
Rod Mattoon notes, “The person who has integrity has nothing to hide and nothing to fear. His or her life is an open book. Integrity is not so much what we do; it is who we are. And who we are, in turn, determines what we do in our life. Our system of values and beliefs are so much a part of us that we cannot separate them from ourselves. These things become the navigating system that guides our choices. Our values and beliefs establish our priorities in our lives and judge what we will tolerate, accept or reject.”
We are all faced with conflicting desires. No one, no matter how spiritual they are, can avoid this battle. The integrity of a person is the factor that determines which desire will prevail. We struggle daily with situations that demand decisions between what we want to do and what we ought to do. Integrity establishes the ground rules for resolving these tensions. It determines who we are and how we will respond before the conflict even shows up in our life. Integrity allows us to predetermine what we will be regardless of circumstances, persons involved or the places of our testing. For example, it was Daniel that purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself in Babylon. He made up his mind to do what was right before he encountered testing.
Integrity welds what we say, what we think and what we do into a whole person so that permission is never granted for one of these to be out of sync. Integrity binds our person together and fosters a spirit of contentment within us. It creates contentment because the actions of a person match what he is in private as well as in public. His actions match his claims.
When integrity is our referee, we will be consistent; our true beliefs will be mirrored by our conduct. There will be no discrepancy between what we appear to be and what our family knows we are, whether in times of prosperity or adversity.
Socrates said, “The first key to greatness is to be in reality what we appear to be.”
“Too often we try to be a “human doing” before we have become a “human being.” To earn trust, a leader, whether a parent, a teacher, a boss, a president, or a pastor, has to be authentic. For that to happen, one must come across like a good musical composition. The words and the music must match.” (Mattoon’s Treasures)
Then we see that when a man walks with these characteristics, he is “blessed” by God where his “sons after him,” (BEN ACHAR) are blessed by association. “Blessed” is once again `ASHRE, אַשְׁרֵי that means, “happy, happiness, blessed or blessedness.” It is synonymous with MAKARIOS of the Greek, cf. Mat 5.
Therefore, Solomon states that when we, as parents, live with integrity, our children will be blessed after us. In God’s plan the nature and actions of parents have an effect on children, Ex 20:4-6. Here the parents’ legacy is righteousness, and so the children reap the benefits, cf. Prov 14:26. Parents bless their children’s lives when their example of walking with Christ encourages them to submit to the wisdom of God, thereby leaving a legacy of having a personal relationship with the Lord by means of His Word. That is a great heritage to leave to them. Our example of godliness will be a good model for them to follow. They in turn, will be blessed if they will live for the Lord.
This blessed future stands in contrast to the king’s enemies whom he roots out of the land, as we will see in the next verse.
Prov 20:8, “A king who sits on the throne of justice disperses all evil with his eyes.”
The virtue of dispersing all evil: Cf. Prov 20:26; 25:5
The virtuous “king”, MALAK, “sitting,” YASHAB, “on the throne of justice,” Al KISSE DIYN, “disperses,” ZARAH, “all evil,” KOL RA, “with his eyes,” BE AYIN.
DIYN, דִּין means, “a case, legal claim or lawsuit.” This is a general term referring to a legal matter, and it may have the sense of “a right, a judgment or a cause.” This is the king as God’s vice regent in administering justice, cf. Prov 20:8; 31:5, 8, 9; Jer 21:12; 22:16; Psa 72:2.
ZARAH for “disperses,” זָרָה means, “to scatter, winnow, disperse, smear, or spread.” It does not mean that he plants evil, but that he gets rid of it, sending it far away. The king’s responsibility was to administer justice, cf. Prov 16:12; 17:15; 29:4, 12, 14, so Solomon uses the image of winnowing to describe the process of separating the wicked from the righteous. In the legal usage it means to send to prison or jail, and this was accomplished by the king who sat in the judge’s seat with a simple look of the eyes. His sharp, discerning eye perceives all that is morally corrupt and socially disruptive to the well-being of God’s kingdom and his binding decisions are so effective that not a trace of evil is left to take root again.
Since all Church Age believers are members of the Royal Family of God, the virtuous believer will have nothing to do with the sin and evil of others and send them far away if approaching. With a simple look from the righteous believer, the evil person will understand to stay away. Likewise, the virtuous believer will try hard to have nothing to do with evil in their life either.
Prov 20:9, “Who can say, “I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin”?”
The virtue of trusting in Christ’s sacrifice: Cf. Job 14:14; Ecc 7:20; Rom 3:9-10; 1 John 1:8-9
Here we have two rhetorical questions regarding the cleansing of our heart from sin.
“Who can say” is the Qal Imperfect of MI AMAR that means, “who can keep on saying,” which means, “you cannot say these things.”
“I have cleansed” is the intensive active Piel Perfect of ZAKAH, זָכָה that means “to be pure, to clean, to be clean, to cleanse, or unadulterated.” It is used for the first time in Proverbs. It is a by-form of ZAKAKH that always refers to moral purity. Each of the cognates also refers to moral rightness. Here in the perfect tense, it means to make the “heart,” LEB, clean once and for all time, speaking of salvation – Positional Sanctification.
As J. Vernon McGee states, “No man by his own efforts can claim to be pure. Even the little baby in the crib cannot claim that. Those little ones reveal temper while they are still infants. At first my little grandson seemed to me to be free from sin. He was so wonderful! Then I found that he had a temper — he would get red in the face and even hold his breath! I had to realize that he was subject to the total depravity of man like the rest of us. Of course I told my wife, “I believe he’s beginning to show some of the characteristics of his grandmother!” No man in his natural state can say, “I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin.” My friend, if you would be heaven bound, you must first be heaven born.”…Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). The Lord Jesus said that to a religious man, a good man. No man can call himself good or pure or right or clean until he has come to Christ for salvation and been clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Then he is accepted in the Beloved. But there is still that old nature that will stay with us until we enter into glory. You cannot make yourself pure. Only God can make you pure. God can give you a standing before Him that removes all the guilt of your sin and enables you to walk in integrity in this world.” (Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee.)
Next we have “I am pure,” the Qal Perfect of TAHER טָהֵר that also means, “to be clean, to make clean, to be pure, or to make pure.” It refers to “moral purity.” The term occurs most frequently in Leviticus where it was used for ritual cleansing of either things or persons, Lev 14:48; 16:19; 22:7. This speaks to our Experiential Sanctification.
The thing that someone cannot make themselves once and for all time perfectly clean from is “sin,” CHATTATH, חַטָּאת. That is, the personal sins that they commit. So the first phrase was in regard to salvation and our Positional Sanctification, whereas this phrase is in regard to cleansing from our personal sins and our Experiential Sanctification, which is accomplished by means of the Rebound Technique of Prov 28:13 and 1 John 1:9.
Prov 28:13, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.”
So this verse tells us that we should never think that we can save ourselves by means of human works, nor cleanse ourselves from our daily sins through a system of penance. We can only accomplish both through faith in the work of Jesus Christ upon the Cross. Therefore, we can neither make ourselves clean nor have a cleanness which exceeds that of our Maker, cf. Job 4:17, “Can mankind be just before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker?”
Waltke notes, “In sum, verses 7-8 combine ethical purity with compassion; ridding the kingdom of evil and showing forbearance. It engenders humility and implicitly and instructs one to throw himself upon the mercy of both God and his king (see 15:3, 11; 16:10-15). The final court of appeal is God’s throne (see v. 10), which is a throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). “And truly, if none can say—I have made my heart clean, myriads can witness to the blood of him, who is the Son of God, cleansing it from guilt (1 John 1:7), and to the mightiness of the Creator to renew it unto holiness”.” (New International Commentary, with the ending quoting Bridges, Proverbs.)
Therefore, this proverb should bring us to personal humility and engender in us an understanding of the failures of others. By grace we have been saved positionally. By grace we are cleansed experientially. And by grace we should look up and treat others.
Oswald Chambers notes, “THE ABANDONMENT OF GOD, “God so loved the world that He gave…” (John 3:16). Salvation is not merely deliverance from sin, nor the experience of personal holiness; the salvation of God is deliverance out of self entirely into union with Himself. My experimental knowledge of salvation will be along the line of deliverance from sin and of personal holiness; but salvation means that the Spirit of God has brought me into touch with God’s personality, and I am thrilled with something infinitely greater than myself, I am caught up into the abandonment of God, To say that we are called to preach holiness or sanctification, is to get into a side eddy. We are called to proclaim Jesus Christ. The fact that He saves from sin and makes us holy is part of the effect of the wonderful abandonment of God. Abandonment never produces the consciousness of its own effort, because the whole life is taken up with the One to Whom we abandon. Beware of talking about abandonment if you know nothing about it, and you will never know anything about it until you have realized that John 3:16 means that God gave Himself absolutely. In our abandonment we give ourselves over to God just as God gave Himself for us, without any calculation. The consequence of abandonment never enters into our outlook because our life is taken up with Him. (My Utmost for His Highest.)
Section 2, Vs. 10-17, Principles Regarding Integrity in Business.
Proverbs 20:10, “Differing weights and differing measures, both of them are abominable to the LORD.”
The virtue of honesty in business:
As we begin a new section regarding integrity in business, we also continue the understanding of the characteristics of virtue in the believer. Here we note the virtue of honesty in business. This is the principle we noted in Prov 11:1f; 16:11; Deut 25:13-16, and we will see again in Prov 20:23. It means to function with honor, fairness, goodness, sincerity, morality, uprightness, truthfulness, candor, trustworthiness, etc., in all of your business dealing with others.
The Hebrew for “differing weights” is EBEN AW EBEN which is an idiom that literally means, “a stone and a stone.”
“Differing measures,” is EPHAH WE EPHAH. EPHAH is transliterated. An EPHAH is a unit of dry measure equal to a bath, which both were one tenth of a homer, a little more than a bushel, or about five gallons. The homer was the standard measure for both dry and liquid measuring. A homer was approximately 11 bushels or 55-60 gallons, cf. Ezek 45:10-11.
These phrases represent all forms of fraud and deceit in business and are concrete expressions of the general idea of “evil” in vs. 8 and “sin” in vs. 9. Having difference meant being dishonest and having no integrity in the business world. And as you know, having no integrity in business is an “abomination to the Lord,” TO’EBAH YHWH. Therefore, honesty is imperative. Honesty is based on the second great commandment, “to love your neighbor,” cf. Lev 19:33-37, and reflects the character of God. Dishonesty, on the other hand, (i.e., using different weights and measures depending on whether the merchant is buying or selling), reveals that a person has rejected the standards of God’s Word and thus the fear of the Lord as a principle of life.
Waltke notes, “Standard weights and measures require legal sanction to enforce their authority. The righteous Lord stands behind them (Lev. 19:35-36; Deut. 25:13-16; Prov. 11:1; 16:11; 20:23; Ezek. 45:10). In practice the king (2 Sam. 14:26) and the priests (Exod. 30:13) set the standard. Behind the blessedness of the righteous family, who do not commit this kind of wickedness (v. 7), and behind the just king who cleanses his realm of evil (v. 8)—while tempered by mercy (v. 9)—stands the Lord who enforces ethical purity (v. 10).” (New International Commentary.)
Proverbs 20:11, “It is by his deeds that a lad distinguishes himself, if his conduct is pure and right.”
The virtue of being distinguished by your works, (Divine Good Production):
“Deeds” is MA’ALAL once again and speaks to your Divine Good Production; the work you perform while Experientially Sanctified. These deeds are what “distinguish” you as different from the rest. The rest will use differing weights and measures, (i.e., cheat, lie, swindle, steal, etc., in business), but you will not. You will use fair weights and measures in all your business transactions. It is the intensive reflexive Hithpael Imperfect for ongoing action of the Verb NAKAR that means, “to regard or to recognize,” that is “make yourself known.”
In the second half, the distinguishing feature here is your “conduct,” the Noun PO’AL, פֹּעַל that means, “deed, or work.” The noun is used here because this is not the action, but the result of your actions, the accomplished work, tasks or deed, and how you go about obtaining those results. The distinguishing characteristics of your work is that it is “pure,” ZAKH meaning “clean or pure,” and “right,” YASHAR, “straight, reliable or upright.”
Here we see that “righteous conduct reveals righteous character.” The activities of a child in his early years point to the direction his life is taking. Notice that goodness does count, integrity does matter to God and purity is worth something. Many may appear to live wisely led by God’s Word, but it is the evidence of their lives over a period of time that reveals whether that “wisdom” lies on the surface or grows out of a heart that truly fears the Lord. A child of God should be walking in a virtuous way which commends the gospel of the grace of God.
McGee notes, “Here is a good question which I have heard asked for many years: If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Suppose you were brought before a court on the accusation, “This fellow is a Christian.” Would there be enough evidence there to convict you? Or would you be able to get off free? Would they look at your life and find you are not living like a Christian should? Would they find you do not walk in integrity? Would they find no goodness, no desire for purity?” (Thru the Bible.)
As Mat 7:16 tells us, “You will know them by their fruit!”
Prov 20:12, “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, The LORD has made both of them.”
The virtue of using your head, (application of Bible Doctrine):
Similar in syntax to vs. 10, this saying means God has given you something to use, so use it!
Here we note that the Lord created two receptive organs that inform the wise heart for good, cf. Prov 1:5. 8, 33; 2:2; 4:21; 24:32, etc.
“Hearing,” SHAMA, and “seeing,” RA’AH, are both in the Qal Active Participle stem. Not only do they mean what the word says literally, to hear sounds and see images, but they also imply learning. In the Qal stem, SHAMA means, “to hear, to listen to, to understand or to obey,” and RA’AH denotes, “to see, to know or to understand.” Both can be used for “to understand,” and understanding comes from learning. So we have before us the dual perception of Bible Doctrine through both the ear gate and the eye gate. This is a double emphasis exhorting us to learn and apply the doctrines that have been presented to us in God’s Word.
In the second half of this verse we are reminded that “The Lord,” YHWH, “has made,” ASAH, “both of them,” GAM (both) SHENAYIM שְׁנַיִם, (the number two). We are reminded that God is our Creator.
The word ASAH is an important verb used for creation in Gen 1, and means to make something out of something. The other two important creative words are BARA, that means to create something out of nothing, and YATSAR that means to fashion or mold. In Gen 1:26, “God made (ASAH) man,” emphasizing the body he made for us. In Gen 2:7 also we see that God “formed man from the dust of the ground,” emphasizing we were fashion or designed by God from the elements He previously created, BARA, out of nothing. And finally in Gen 1:26-27 we see that God “created man and woman” emphasizing the soul life he created out of nothing and placed inside of the man and woman.
In our verse we have ASAH in the active Qal Perfect, for completed action by God, meaning that He made, out of the elements of the earth in the past, our ears and eyes to function and perform the task of learning; learning from the wisdom He has given to us; in this case by David and Solomon. By linking the primary organs of learning to the Lord’s activity, and by not mentioning the mouth, feet or hands, which are organs of self-expression, not learning, He encourages the student to listen, observe and learn.
Therefore, related to the prologue’s commands to listen, observe and obey, this verse implies that since the Lord made the eye and ear, the wise will use them for His purposes; to grow in wisdom and righteousness. We are not to walk around like dummies, making mistake after mistake, as the fool misuses God’s good creation of the receptors that could make him wise to salvation, Prov 17:24; 23:9, which he is deaf and blind to. But instead, we are to learn the principles and precepts of Bible doctrine from what we hear our teachers telling us, and what we see in the lives of spiritually mature believers, so that we can apply wisdom to our own lives. Listening and observing are important qualities of a good disciple and Solomon regularly calls upon him to use them to read and hear his teaching, so that he can apply them to everyday life.
“God has given you eyes to see and ears to hear. Use them. Stop, look, listen. That is not only good advice before you cross a railroad track, it is good when you are facing life every day. Don’t go blindly through life, seeing but not seeing. Use your eyes. Open your ears.” (Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee.)
In vs. 10-12, we learned that to have integrity in our business practices we must possess the virtues of honesty, being distinguished by our righteous deeds and conduct, and apply the wisdom of Bible doctrine we have learned through the ear gate and the eye gate. In the following 5 verses we will learn more characteristic of virtue the believer should be exercising on the job.
Prov 20:13, “Do not love sleep, lest you become poor; open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with food.”
The Qal Jussive (desire) warns us to “not love sleep,” AL AHEB SHANE, because it will lead to poverty, “least you become poor,” PEN YARASH. PEN means, “so that not,” and “poor” is actually YARASH, יָרַשׁ in the passive NIPHAL Imperfect means, “to be taken as a possession of someone, or to be subdued.” It means that you should not sell yourself into slavery, which meant you were too poor to pay your bills and provide for yourself and your family, so in the ancient world the poor would become indentured or bond servants so that they and their families could survive, cf. Ex 21:2; Lev 25:35-43, 47; Deut 15:12. Therefore, too much sleep is a sure sign of laziness and if someone likes to sleep all the time, they most likely will end up impoverished because they are not working as they should to provide for themselves and their families.
As Prov 6:10-11 told us, “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest,” 11and your poverty will come in like a vagabond, and your need like an armed man.”
In contrast, the sleep of a laboring worker is sweet, Eccl 5:12, “The sleep of the working man is pleasant, whether he eats little or much. But the full stomach of the rich man does not allow him to sleep.”
The exhortation then is to “open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with food.”
“Open your eyes” is the Qal Imperative of PAQACH, פָּקַח, and the noun AYIN for “eyes,” which means to wake up or be awake, so that you can do your job. If you do, “you will be satisfied with food,” SABA LECHEM that literally means, “to be satisfied or satiated with bread.” In other words, the diligent worker will have plenty to eat and will not be in want. So it says to “open your eyes and eat,” a humorous difference from “open your eyes and see,” which we saw in vs. 12.
Remember, the Lord knows the problems and difficulties you face when you go to work every day. He understands the chaos you must deal with, especially inside of Satan’s cosmic system. That is why He exhorts us to be prudent and diligent to perform our jobs unto Him, as we contend with ever threatening chaos. Remember that our Lord contended with the chaos of Satan from the beginning of creation, which He worked work diligently to restore and continues to maintain today, cf. Prov 3:19-20; 8:22-31.
So the characteristic of virtue is to be self-motivated by God’s Word in your soul, to do your job unto the Lord. It encourages the diligence that provides the needs of life, cf. Prov 6:6-11; 20:4; 24:30-34; Eph 6:5-8; Col 3:22-25.
Ephesians 6:5-8, “Slaves (workers), be obedient to those who are your masters (bosses) according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; 6not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. 7With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.”
Prov 20:14, “Bad, bad,” says the buyer; but when he goes his way, then he boasts.”
“Bad, bad,” is RA, RA or evil, evil, “says the buyer,” AMAR QANAH. This phrase shows the lying swindler who tries to talk you down deceitfully during in a business transaction by saying, “no, this is not a good deal,” or that “the product is inferior,” when all along he knows it is a good buy and quality product. It warns to be aware of the masking of speech in business transactions, and thereby apply wisdom and discernment.
In the second half we have, “but when he goes his way,” AZAL EL, meaning that he has purchased it, “then he boasts,” AZ with HALAL in the reflexive Hithpael Imperfect that has the idea, “to keep on praising oneself,” which is tantamount to, “to keep on boasting about yourself, or gloating.” In other words, he brags over and over again about how he swindled the seller, and how good of a negotiator he is.
This is “lording over someone” an advantageous purchase you have made at the expense of another. At first you say “No! That’s not a good deal.” But then you buy it saying ingenuously, “well I’m going to take a loss and suffer, but I’ll do it for your sake.”
And remember, if we are going to boast about anything it should be to boast in the Lord, cf. 1 Kings 20:11; 1 Sam 2:3; Psa 34:2; 49:6; 52:1, 3; Jer 9:22-24; 27:1; 49:4.
1 Cor 1:31, “So that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.”
So this is a warning to would-be sellers, to use the wisdom they have obtain from God’s Word in their soul, that buyers will always try to lower the price, regardless of their actual opinion, as this buyer is both a deceitful liar and an impious boaster. And at the same time, it can be a warning to the buyer that sellers may overprice their products and thus the sharp buyer has to take time and use his common sense to know what the real value is.
Never-the-less, this passage is related to the larger theme of the need to weigh the words and deeds of others before accepting them, and therefore make good decisions when accepting offers.
This verse does not mean that bargaining is bad, for example: Abraham bargained with God who graciously lowered “the price,” but he neither lied nor boasted, Gen 18:22-33. But on the other hand Ephron, as a seller, probably lied to Abraham in offering him his field for nothing in an example of reverse bargaining, but Abraham did not bite, Gen 23.
The virtuous characteristic in view is, have good sense to discern the truth in business transactions, regardless of what is being said by those involved.
Prov 20:15, “There is gold, and an abundance of jewels; but the lips of knowledge are a more precious thing.”
“Gold”, is ZAHAB, and “jewels” is PENINIM, that means “jewels or coral.”
“The lips of knowledge” is SAPHAH DA’ATH and “are a more precious thing” is the Noun YEQAR, יְקָר meaning, “preciousness or honor,” with KELI, כְּלִי meaning, “container, vessel, article, or tool.”
Coupled with vs. 14 and the bad speech in the market place, this verse exhorts you to have wisdom and knowledge in all business transactions you are involved in, and to use that wisdom in your speech, especially at the bargaining table, so that your speech is commendable filled with knowledge.
Just as a precious vessel deserves to be filled with something of great value; gold or jewels for example, in the same way, the mouth of the wise should be filled with something, knowledge / Biblical wisdom, that is more valuable than gold and jewels.
Waltke notes, “The metaphor expresses the unstated thought that lips (see 5:2) that speak knowledge are extremely valuable and aesthetically pleasing and the unstated feeling that they are earnestly desired.” (New International Commentary.)
Therefore, the virtuous characteristic in view is to speak with wisdom and knowledge when dealing in business transactions. And it reminds us that to pursue worldly wealth rather than wisdom, if forced to choose between them, is foolish. It does not aim to disparage possessing wealth, but to set it within a framework of values, cf. Prov 3:14; 8:10-11, 19; 16:16.
Prov 20:16, “Take his garment when he becomes surety for a stranger; and for foreigners, hold him in pledge.”
This verse is virtually identical to Prov 27:13, “Take his garment when he becomes surety for a stranger; And for an adulterous woman hold him in pledge.”
“Take his garment,” is the Qal Imperative of LAQACH BEGED. “When he becomes surety,” is KI ARAB, and “for a stranger,” is ZAR meaning, “someone strange to a family or household,” thus, a stranger or outsider.
Becoming surety for a stranger is not recommended in Proverbs and the sign of a fool. Putting up security for another is yet another expression of imprudence in speech and in business, cf. Prov 6:1-2. If someone is going to be foolish enough to pledge themselves for a stranger, the seller is recommended to use wisdom and take something of value from the one who pledges for another. This will give some compensation to the seller if the pledger is a swindler.
This is reiterated in the second half, “and for foreigners” is the Particle BA’ADH, בַּעַד meaning, “for or within,” with the noun NOKRIY that is also used for “foreigner or strangers.” In Proverbs this is also used for prostitutes and adulteresses. As in the identical Proverb, 27:13, this takes it to another level. It’s one thing to pledge for a stranger, it is another to pledge for a known sinner!
But here too the seller is exhorted to use wisdom so as not to get swindled by, “holding him in pledge,” which is the Qal Imperative Verb CHABAL with a pronominal suffix that means, “to take him in pledge.” Rather than just taking the “shirt off his back,” you take him too, as a bond servant, and then see who is telling the truth and who is not. Anyone stupid enough to promise to be responsible for a stranger’s debts ought to have his own property held to guarantee payment.
So this exemplifies the preceding verse, which says that wisdom entails looking ahead to the possible consequences of actions, and emphasizes the stupidity of risking one’s life to an unknown creditor by becoming security for a stranger.
The virtuous characteristic here is to have wisdom of foresight as to the consequence of business transactions.
Prov 20:17, “Bread obtained by falsehood is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel.”
The Proverb sums up the previous verses regarding the lying swindler. We could also say, “Crime does not pay!”
“Bread obtained by falsehood” is LECHEM SHEQER meaning “lying or deceiving,” and “is sweet to a man” is the Adjective AREB עָרֵב that means, “pleasant or sweet” that describes something tasting like sugar or honey, sweet and invigorating, but is used figuratively of things obtained and enjoyed falsely.
Van Leeuwen believes the word play in this verse suggests, “Someone can be enticed by a “sweet deal” and swallow a bad deal.” (Proverbs)
Here we see that this false deal may give him pleasure initially, as he brags and boasts about it, but eventually it will turn sour, as the second half tells us.
“Afterwards his mouth will be filled with gravel,” ACHAR, (starkly contrasting the before and after scene speaking to the cause-consequence connection), PEH MALE, (in the passive NIPHAL Imperfect – he receives the consequences of his actions – mouth being filled), CHATSATS חָצָץ (“gravel, or pebbles.”)
It is a metaphor for having “to eat” the results of his deceptive speech. He is so completely saturated that there is room for nothing, where the gravel, a metaphor for the false deal he struck, is not tasty, sweet nor satisfying to the appetite, and when chewed it breaks the teeth so that the liar can no longer speak or eat and comes to an awful end, cf. Lam 3:16.
Lam 3:16, “And He has broken my teeth with gravel; He has made me cower in the dust.”
This tells us that whether the object of desire was obtained by theft or some other form of deceit, the anticipation is often greater than the enjoyment, cf. Prov 20:21; 21:6; Job 20:12-16. Sin is pleasant to the sinner for a season, but ultimately proves fatal, cf. Prov. 9:17-18; 23:31-32; Heb 11:25.
By contrast holiness is sweet both along the way and in its final end, cf. Prov 10:23.
Therefore, we are exhorted to maintain the virtuous characteristic of truthfulness and righteousness, honesty and integrity in all of our business transactions.
Section 3, Vs. 18-19, Principles Regarding Wise Leadership.
Prov 20:18, “Prepare plans by consultation, and make war by wise guidance.”
The Hebrew reads, “plans,” (the noun MACHASHABAH, מַחֲשָׁבָה once again), “by consultation,” (the noun ETSAH, עֵצָה once again that means, “counsel, purpose or advice”), “prepare,” (the Passive Niphal Imperfect of KUN, כּוּן that we have also previously noted that means, “to prepare or to establish”). A better reading uses the definition of “establish” for KUN, and reads, “Plans by consultation will be established.” This reading provides the point intended that when you seek much consultation prior to taking action, your plan will more likely be successful.
“And make war by wise guidance,” in the Hebrew begins with “and guidance,” WA TACHBULAH, תַּחְבֻּלָה, (wise is not in the Hebrew here but is alluded to, since those who seek guidance seek those that are wiser than they are). This is followed by “make”, ASAH, and “war”, which is MILCHAMAH, מִלְחָמָה which is the first time we have seen this word in Proverbs. It is used for a war or just one battle.
So we have “plans” with “war,” “prepare” with “make” and “by consultation” with “guidance.” As you know, successful planning depends upon good advice and the wise person knows to seek and heed wise counsel.
People bent on a course of action can often only see the benefits and upside of their actions, cf. Prov 9:16ff; 16:2, 25, and they do not see the costs or down sides. Good counselors can help us to see all aspects of any undertaking we endeavor to pursue, and give us advice that leads to the right course of action.
This verse uses the example of a king who needs to plan carefully for a war, as war is a matter of life and death where he and his people could be destroyed. If a king needs to seek wise counsel, how much more should we seek counsel when faced with decisions that will affect the course of our lives? So this verse is speaking about being teachable, as wise believers seek out and listen to the counsel and guidance of those who are more knowledgeable and experienced than they are. The wise person will take “counsel” before taking action, and accept “rebuke” after mistaken actions if necessary, cf. Prov 11:14; 15:22; 24:6.
Prov 11:14, “Where there is no guidance, the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.”
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 15:22, “Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed.”
Proverbs 24:6, “For by wise guidance you will wage war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.”
This is true in the physical realm, just as it is true in the spiritual realm. We are all part of the great Angelic Conflict and we have to fight spiritual battles every day. In order to win those battles, we must receive information from guidance counselors who are more knowledgeable and experienced than we are. Those guidance counselors are first, the principles and precepts found in God’s Word as taught to us by our Pastor Teacher, and secondly, other believers who have reached spiritual maturity. When we diligently seek out those counselors and apply what they have taught us, we will be victorious, overcomes and winners inside the great power struggle of the Angelic Conflict, cf. Rev 2-3.
Prov 20:18, “He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with a gossip.”
Like Prov 11:13, this verse is next to a proverb that addresses the importance of seeking help from wise counselors when making a decision, Prov 11:14.
Prov 11:13-14, “He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy conceals a matter. 14Where there is no guidance, the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.”
Ironically, the previous proverb taught to us to seek out counsel before entering into war, and this proverb teaches us to not associate with those who would destroy a community with their tongue. So coupled with “seek wise counsel” above, this verse is a warning to steer clear of the fool who slanders and gossips, because as it says, the “slanderer,” (RAKIYL, רָכִיל), will “reveal secrets,” (GALAH, meaning “to lay bare or uncover,” with SOD, that can mean, “secret plans, private advice or intimate thoughts and feelings.”) In other words, “loose lips sink ships.”
GALAH was also used of the fool who delights in revealing his own mind in Prov 18:2. So at best you are not going to get wise counsel from this person, as they will only speak about the foolishness within them, and at worst they are going to reveal your plans to the enemy. That is why we are warned to steer clear of these types, as it says, “therefore do not associate with, (ARAB – have pleasantries or make a pledge with), a gossip.” Here “gossip” is PATHAH SAPHAH that literally means, “to be simple with the lips,” or even “to deceive with the mouth,” and stands for the liar, gossiper, slanderer, or secret teller.
Therefore, it is unwise to entrust knowledge of your private affairs or intentions to someone too foolish to keep his mouth shut, because he cannot be trusted. “Since plans often take time to come to fruition, and since no one knows the full state of anyone else’s thoughts (cf. 14:10; 25:3), premature or unauthorized revelation of incomplete deliberations may grievously harm the one making the decision. It is foolish, and possibly even dangerous, to seek counsel from a gossip, who is likely to reveal private situations or dilemmas without permission.” (Complete Biblical Library Commentary)
Section 4, Vs. 20-21, Principles Regarding the Treatment of Your Parents.
Having noted wise virtuous business and leadership principles, we now have wisdom related to the family, in particular the virtuous treatment of our parents.
Prov 20:20, “He who curses his father or his mother, his lamp will go out in time of darkness.”
Being the fifth of the Ten Commandments, Ex 20:12; Deut 5:16, this was also reiterated by our Lord in Mat 5:4. Our Lord linked this commandment to “loving your neighbor” in Mat 5:19, therefore, honoring your parents is a form of loving your neighbor, as it promotes a harmonious community. In addition, this was the first commandment that was accompanied by a promise, “that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.” Cf. Eph 6:1-3; with Jer 35:1-10.
But in our verse, Prov 20:20, we are given a warning of what will happen if we do not honor our parents and instead curse them. So in essence, if we curse our parents, our Lord will curse us with Divine discipline.
Here we have a warning against the ill treatment of our parents in the form of a curse towards them. “Curses” is the verb QALAL, that basically means “to be small or light,” but has many nuances. Some of them include: “to call someone vile, to be of no account in the eyes of someone, to treat with ignominy, (to publically disgrace and dishonor), to lightly esteem, and in the intensive active Piel forms, as here, it can mean, “to make slight of, to make of no account, make little of, trifle, or to consider to be light,” thus, by extension, “to curse or execrate, (detest, denounce or curse someone).” Disrespect for parents attacks the moral order of both society and creation, so that cursing parents is a capital crime in God’s eyes, Ex 21:17; Lev 20:9; Deut 27:16. The Law, Lev 20:9, regarded cursing parents as tantamount to blasphemy, because the parents represent God’s authority to the child.
Next we have the warning for the son or daughter who does this: “your lamp, NIYR, will go out, DA’AK, in time of darkness, BE IYSHON CHOSHEK.”
“Will go out,” DA’AK is a verb indicating to die out or to be extinguished, here in the Qal Imperfect for “it will be extinguished.”
“In time of darkness” is an idiom that literally says, BE IYSHON CHOSHEK, or in the black of darkness, where IYSHON literally means “the pupil of your eye,” which is black. This is an hapaxlegomena, meaning it is the only time this word is used in the OT. CHOSHEK means, “darkness or obscurity.” It is a variant spelling of IYSHON that is used four times in the OT and means “pupil or the apple of the eye.” It is distinguished here from the other spelling of IYSHON which is used in a positive or neutral sense, where here it is a negative connotation related to death. So we see that by publicly defaming his parents, the fool aimed to harm them, perhaps, to gain his inheritance early, which we will see in our next verse, cf. Prov 19:26; 20:21, but instead, he gains a premature death.
The double emphasis of black darkness, intensifies the son’s untimely death as tragic and hopeless, and has a double meaning. Not only will the one who disgraces publically his parents suffer Divine discipline leading to the Sin Unto Death, Prov 13:9; 24:20; 1 Cor 11:30, they will also not have a legacy, as they will die in obscurity. This is like our idiom saying, “you will die and be buried in an unmarked grave.”
Therefore, if you have a father and a mother of whom you can say something good about, then says it, but if you cannot, then do not say anything at all. That is what this proverb is saying. “This is where Ham made his mistake. Noah, his father, got drunk, and Ham exposed his father. He should have kept silent. There are certain things that you just do not run around telling everyone.” (McGee, Thru the Bible.) So if a son curses his parents, the Lord will curse him, Deut 27:16; Prov 30:17.
Prov 30:17, “The eye that mocks a father and scorns a mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out, and the young eagles will eat it.”
Prov 20:21, “An inheritance gained hurriedly at the beginning will not be blessed in the end.”
This is the principle of putting your parents in the ground as quickly as possible… lol. All joking aside, this is a passage about capacity. When a son or daughter gains an “inheritance,” NACHALAH, from their parents, it can be a tremendous amount of money suddenly placed in their care. It is kind of like winning the lottery.
The phrase “gained hurriedly,” is an obscure word in the Hebrew. It is the Verb BAHAL, בָּחֵל in the intensive passive Pual Participle. It is only used here and in Zech 11:18. It has two unrelated usages, “to abhor or to obtain by greed.” The first meaning is used in Zech 11:8, which comes from a Syriac word meaning, “to be nauseated by or to experience disgust with,” and refers to the flock who abhorred the shepherd. The second meaning, “to obtain by greed,” comes from an Arabic word with a similar meaning. That is the intended use here, because greed leads to all kinds of unrighteous behavior that can motivate a son to do something illegal to more quickly obtain his inheritance.
In addition, some scholars believe this word should be the variant spelling for BAHAL, בָּהַל, which means, “to hasten or to be in a hurry,” as in 2 Chron 26:20; Eccl 8:3. Our passage is traditionally rendered as “hastily acquired” because of the phrase that follows, “at the beginning,” RI’SHON, which we noted in Prov 18:17 that means “first or former.” The context of our passage does not demand this translation, as the meaning of abhor, despised or neglected would also work here.
Regardless, of the translation of how this inheritance is gained, the issue is “it will not be blessed in the end,” which is the negative LO, for “not” with the intensive passive Pual imperfect of BARAK that means to “bless or praise,” meaning will not be blessed. Also it has the Noun ACHARIYTH that means “the furthest part or end.” Therefore, an inheritance that is received in some intensified way will absolutely not be a blessing to the one who receives it in such a way, in time or in eternity. The inheritance will not be used to produce Divine good, as God intended it for; therefore, this person will also lose out on rewards and blessings in the eternal state. No Divine good production on earth means, no blessings in the eternal state, 1 Cor 3:10-15.
There are three basic issues here, “greed, patience and capacity.”
In regard to greed, this passage warns against it, as also does Prov 23:4-5, which is an ever-present form of idolatry, Col 3:5, that leads you into all kinds of unrighteousness, as we have been noting in this chapter, especially the “business and leadership” passages.
Prov 23:4-5, “Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it. 5When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings, like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.”
Col 3:5, “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.”
In regard to patience, we are exhorted to have patience to wait on the timing of the Lord. He will bless you at the right time, especially when you have developed the capacity to handle it.
Romans 2:7-9, “To those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. 9There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek.”
James 1:2-4, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
In regard to capacity, regardless of how the inheritance is received, the issue is do you have the right “capacity” to enjoy what you have received. That is, does this young man have the capacity to handle the new found money he has come into? Whether gained illicitly or hurriedly, this young man does not have the capacity to truly enjoy the inheritance he has received. As we have seen throughout this chapter, we are admonished to work hard with the utmost integrity in order to earn a living. And in the agricultural economy of the ancient world, one must expect to put forth effort into one’s property to make it fruitful.
Therefore, capacity is the issue. For example, if someone gains an inheritance illegally at any age, or legally when they were young, they did not put the time and effort into earning the money to have the proper respect and appreciation for what it takes to earn that money. Without that healthy appreciation, they will not use the inheritance wisely.
Two issues come to mind here:
1) When people come into money who used to not have money, many times it changes them and their priorities. They can become snobs in regard to those who do not have money, even though at one time they did not have money. They also have a change in priorities where now it is all about the money; how to spend it, what they have spent it on, and how to maintain it. They forget that God was the One who gave them their wealth and should honor Him with it, in some form or another. At the same time, their focus changes from God as the number one priority in their life, to their wealth being the number one priority in their life. They worship the gift over the Giver of the gift.
2) Young adults when they first move out. Many young adults want all the things that mom and dad have, right now. They either forget, or do not realize, that mom and dad worked hard for many years to accumulate some wealth that they shared with their children. And now that the child has moved out, they want what their parents have, right now. As a result, you see two parents working and the grandkids in day care, or the grandparents taking care of the children, so that the parents can have all that “stuff” now!
Capacity is defined as the ability to receive and to retain; it is the amount that can be contained. Capacity is used for the potential to do something and mental capacity is the power for receiving knowledge. Therefore, capacity connotes both aptitude and capability.
Inside the plan of God, you develop your spiritual capacity through the intake and application of God’s Word through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. If you build your soul with Bible Doctrine, you build your capacity for blessings in time and eternity. When you have spiritual capacity you can truly enjoy the Divine blessings of God. There is no true happiness in life without capacity for that happiness, and the capacity for that happiness comes from some God-given righteousness first for salvation and then for experiential sanctification.
Many people in the world think they are truly happy with the material things they own and possess, but true happiness means inner peace and happiness regardless of the circumstance of your life.
Phil 4:11-12, “Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am (capacity). 12I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.”
Capacity is the key to true happiness in life. God does not bless us beyond our capacity for blessing. Yet, Satan loves to give material things to those who do not have capacity for them, because he knows it can destroy their spiritual life.
True happiness in life has to do with perfect soul environment, which is only achieved through the Balance of Residency: maximum Bible doctrine in the soul ready for application, plus the filling of God the Holy Spirit.
True happiness is that perfect environment of the mental state that comes from a life of integrity, honor and justice, which are all a part of capacity righteousness. Many unbelievers can find capacity for happiness through their integrity as well as, under the principles of Divine Establishment. But capacity righteousness is the God-given capability for Divine blessing and the doctrinal aptitude to appreciate blessing from God that is translated into perfect soul happiness. Having capacity to truly appreciate the blessing from God will not side track the believer away from their daily relationship with God, but if there is no Divine given capacity, the believer will be side tracked / ship wrecked in the in the spiritual life.
1 Tim 1:18-19, “…fight the good fight, 19keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.”
When there is no capacity for Divine blessing, it means the arrogance skills are in place. Believers justify themselves, deceive themselves, and are completely absorbed with themselves. God never blesses an individual or a nation beyond their capacity.
So in the case of an inheritance, it usually comes suddenly and creates relative wealth. Those who are unprepared for it may squander it, allow it to affect their relationships with others, Prov18:23; 19:4, or destroy them in some other way. That which should have been a blessing to them, Prov 19:14, becomes a curse and misery to them.
Yet, the wise person, who practices self-discipline in every facet of their lives, understands from this proverb that they need to prepare for the time when they too may suddenly gain a fortune, thereby building capacity to receive it and enjoy it without it becoming a distraction to their spiritual life and ultimately lead to misery. If you have already received great wealth and have not yet built the capacity to truly enjoy it without being distracted from your relationship with God, you too need to learn His Word and build the capacity for future enjoyment and eternal blessings.
Heb 13:5, “Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” 6so that we confidently say, “THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT SHALL MAN DO TO ME?”
2 Cor 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed, (Divine good production).”
How much time I have wasted seeking my own way
I thought things were great and prosperity was here to stay
But I had left the One who was the source of it all
Blind, that without Him, cracks developed in the wall
I did not heed the warnings, though I felt the foundations shake
Oh that’s just nothing, just a ripple, a small and insignificant quake
And though the frequency of the ripples did, in fact, increase
I did not inspect the walls for fissures or for tiny leaks
Dragging my feet now as a lumber without protection
The walls have now fallen without my detection
Now I am laid bare to attack from without
They descend upon me like locusts, my enemies holler and shout
With sword and precision they cut me to pieces
Knowing where to strike and they’re might increases
Until I’m on my knees wondering what the hell happened
My soul and my heart, wanting and dampened
I look to the left and then to the right
My walls are gone they have no more height
But there is one thing still remaining, it was never, ever taken
The foundations and the cornerstone are still there; unshaken
It becomes suddenly apparent what had happened to my life
I did not tend the walls, I sat lazily, and slept in spite
Of the knocking of the Lord upon my closed door
I didn’t go to open it as I had many times before
But now He is here and He shows no condemnation
He picked up a stone and said, “it’s over,… your vacation”
It’s time to rebuild is what He said to me
He knew just how to get me started, He was a carpenter you see
He handed me the right tools and gave me a stone too
He said I had to get to work, “but I will help you.”
And so we worked all day until the night began to fall
Then we went inside and sat and ate, and laughed the whole night long
Section 5, Vs. 22-30, (including 21:1), Further principles of integrity and virtue in business and leadership.
The first subsection of this section includes vs. 22-25, that teaches us to trust God to avenge wrong and not ourselves.
Prov 20:22, “Do not say, ‘I will repay evil’; wait for the Lord, and He will save you.”
Just as Lev 19:18; Deut 32:35, 43; Psa 94:1; Prov 24:19; 27:14; Rom 12:17, 19; 1 Thes 4:6; 5:15; Heb 10:30 and 1 Peter 3:9 tell us, this Proverb teaches us to not take vengeance into our own hands, but instead trust in the Lord for deliverance in all situations. We are exhorted to Faith-Rest in the Lord, trusting that He will continually watch over us, care for us and provide for us, by the words “wait” and “save” that we will note below.
Lev 19:18, “Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am Yahweh.”
Rom 12:17, 19, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.”
We begin with “do not say,” which is the basic Adverb of negation AL, with the Qal Jussive of the verb AMAR meaning to “say or speak” and sometimes “to think.” The Jussive is used for the expressed desire of the writer. The desire here is to not take matters into our own hands. We are exhorted to not take revenge on someone, or even have thoughts of vengeance, as noted in the phrase, “I will repay evil.” The reason people take vengeance against others in the first place is because they do not trust in God to do anything, or to do it on their terms and timing. It’s a result of the arrogance complex of sins.
The phrase “I will repay evil” is the intensive active Piel Jussive of SHALAM from SHALOM that can mean, “to be complete or to be at peace.” The most common use of this verb is in the Piel stem, as here, meaning, “to pay what is owed, repay or payback,” used both positively and negatively. Here it is used negatively for revenge or revenge motivation. In the Hebrew, SHALAM is followed by RA, which means, “bad or evil.” Therefore, as an intensive active desire, we can translate this “Please do not say ‘I will repay evil’.”
So we are exhorted to not take revenge on others. Instead of taking revenge on a person who has done a wrong against us, either real or imagined, we are commanded to “wait for the Lord,” which is the intensive active Piel Imperative of the verb QAWAH, קָוָה that means, “to wait for, look for or to hope for.”
This verb, though used 49 times in the OT, is only used here in Proverbs. It possibly comes from a root QWH that means “to be tense or to be eager,” which indicates the emotional state of hoping for something. Therefore, we see that our entire being, (body, soul and spirit), needs to have this mental attitude of trusting in “the Lord,” YHWH, יְהָוה, cf. Psa 27:14.
Psa 27:14, “Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD.”
QAWAH is one of the Hebrew words used for faith-resting in God. It means to patiently wait on Him and His timing, with confident expectation, to fulfill what He has promised. It is trusting that He will come through for you in time of need.
The root meaning of this verb is that of twisting or winding individual strands of cord together to make a thick rope that you can hold onto, which will also support you. It is a great example of the Faith-Rest Drill; taking the individual promises of God and mixing them with faith to arrive at a doctrinal rational that leads to a doctrinal conclusion to your situation that you can place your total trust in.
QAWAH is used in Isa 40:31, telling us that the Lord gives strength to those who hope (have confidence) in Him, “Yet those who wait for the Lord…” Remember that hope is not a wish list, but a confident expectation that something will occur. And having this kind of hope is filled with promises, “…will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”
We also know from Scripture that when we do hope (faith-rest) in what God has promised, we will not be disappointed, even though it may not appear to succeed or come to fruition in the short run, Job 30:26; Isa 59:11; cf. Isa 59:15-21; Rom 5:5.
Rom 5:1-5, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand (Positional Sanctification); and we exult in hope (ELIPIS) of the glory of God. 3And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope (Experiential Sanctification); 5and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Therefore, by means of the enabling power of the Holy Spirit we are taught the Word of God so that we can use it to know and understand God and His promises, whereof we can faith-rest in.
We are exhorted to wait on the Lord in the strength of His Word, (Bible doctrine), cycling through our hearts in Psa 27:14; Rom 10:17.
Psa 27:14, “Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.”
Rom 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”
At the end of Prov 20:22 there is a promise given to those who have this complete faith-rest in the Lord, “and He will save you,” which is the Hiphil Jussive of YASHA, יָשַׁע with the Preposition LE. This is the first time we have seen YASHA, which is a verb meaning, “to save, to help, to deliver, or to defend.” The main idea of this verb is “bringing to a place of safety or broad pasture as opposed to a narrow strait, (which is symbolic of distress and danger).” The causative active Hiphil stem with the Jussive indicates the desired action by the Lord. It is the desire of the writer that God will save/deliver you from distress. The TDOT notes its use here as “bringing help to those in trouble rather than rescuing them from it.” But as you know the Lord both delivers in tribulation and out from tribulation, Prov 28:18a, cf. 1 Sam 25:26, 31, 33.
Proverbs 28:18a, “He who walks blamelessly will be delivered.”
This Proverb admonishes in the strongest terms not to respond to fools with human vengeance, but to have faith in God’s avenging, Prov 24:29; cf. Prov 17:13; 24:17-18.
Prov 24:29, “Do not say, ‘Thus I shall do to him as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work’.”
However, Proverbs and Scripture in general, do not exclude judicial procedures for justice, because God ordained government to uphold the moral order, cf. Prov 16:10-15; 20:2; Rom 12:17-13:7.
Nevertheless, YASHA, as used here and throughout Scripture, conveys the Lord’s:
- Deliverance from tribulation, Judges 10:13-14.
- Deliverance from certain death, Psa 22:21.
- Rescue from your enemies, Deut 28:31; Judges 6:14.
- Victory in time of war, 1 Sam 14:6.
- The protective duty of a shepherd, Ezek 34:22; cf. Judges 10:1.
- Avenging wrongs, 1 Sam 25:33, and our verse.
- Compassionate aid in a time of need, 2 Kings 6:26, 27; Psa 12:1.
- Salvation that only comes from God, Isa 33:22; Ezek 37:23; Zeph 3:17.
And interestingly, the number 8 in Scripture stands for superabundance and newness. Therefore when we trust in the Lord and do not take matters into our own hands, God will superabundantly deliver us from evil.
So the principle is: vengeance belongs to the Lord, not to the one who suffers a wrong, because “the omniscient, impartial Lord can mete out perfect justice, unlike the restricted earthling, who may also be blinded by lust and prejudice.” (Waltke, NIC) Cf. Prov 16:7; 2 Sam 3:39.
How do We Faith-Rest in the Lord:
- The first thing you do is prepare yourself to receive God’s deliverance. When in distress, you must seek God in prayer, e.g., Judges 3:9; Psalm 69:1, i.e., you must recognize your need and humble yourself before God with a contrite heart, cf. Job 22:29; Psa 34:18. This turning to God involves confession and forsaking of your sins, Prov 28:13; 1 John 1:9, because sin hinders God from helping those in distress, Isa 59:1f.
Prov 28:13, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.”
It also results in fellowship with God / the Filling of the Holy Spirit, 1 John 1:5-8; cf. Eph 5:18, who empowers you to apply the Faith-Rest life.
- Once you have sincerely turned to God, you must express your confidence in God by waiting for deliverance, Isa 30:15.
Isa 30:15, “For thus the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said, ‘In repentance and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength’….”
God chooses the time to act; man must wait in hope. God expects His people to endure difficult circumstances in faith as He chooses the most opportune time to bring deliverance.
- While you wait for God’s deliverance, you are to be actively involved in pursuing righteousness and expressing love, Isa 56:1; Hosea 10:12; 12:6.
Hosea 12:6, “Therefore, return to your God, observe kindness and justice, and wait for your God continually.”
Gal 5:22-24, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. …”
- With the Filling of the Holy Spirit, claim promises from the Bible, Heb 4:1‑3, which can be called mixing the promises of God with faith.
For example claim, Isa 43:1b-3, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! 2When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. 3For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
- Next you combine the promises of God like strands of a rope that lead you to doctrinal rationales. For example, the Essence of God rationale, the Plan of God rationale, the Logistical Grace rationale, the A-fortiori rationale, the Escrow/Election rationale, etc. This stage is known as reverse concentration: taking your thoughts off of the problem and putting them on to God in the application of Bible doctrine.
For example: the Essence of God rationale says, because God is all-powerful, Jer 14:22, He will eventually bring His promises to pass, Lam 3:25, “The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.” These promises include the establishing of His kingdom on earth, Psa 37:9, 34; Isa 25:9.
Jer 14:22, “Are there any among the idols of the nations who give rain? Or can the heavens grant showers? Is it not You, O LORD our God? Therefore we hope in You, for You are the One who has done all these things.”
- Next in Faith-Rest, you reach doctrinal conclusions knowing that God is in control of the situation. This becomes the function of Spiritual Self-Esteem. It is this stage of the Faith-Rest drill that brings you to spiritual adulthood.
The greatest spiritual crisis comes when a person has to move a little farther on in his faith than the beliefs he has already accepted. When you do, there will be accompanying growth in your spiritual walk.
- Hymns of Praise, both before and after deliverance.
For example, Moses song following the deliverance at the Red Sea, Ex 15:1-18, and Isa 12; 42:10ff.; 49:13; 54:1ff.
Singing gives expression to the joy of seeing God’s deliverance. Joy is frequently mentioned as man’s inner response to God’s victory, e.g., Psa 13:5.
Psa 13:5, “But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.”
Eph 5:15-21, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”
Those who have received YHWH’s help feel compelled to share it with others; Psa 40:10, “I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart; I have spoken of Your faithfulness and Your salvation; I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth from the great congregation.” Thus God’s salvation fills life with meaning and joy.
Abraham’s circumcision is the classic illustration of the mature believer with maximum adjustment to the justice of God making application of his faith, Rom 4:17‑21. Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac was the proof or testing of his mature faith, Gen 22:1‑18.
The faith rest drill is a plan designed by God to stabilize the mentality of your soul when the pressures and adversities of life come upon you. Knowing that God is in absolute control of every circumstance in your life, you respond to adversity rather than react to it.
Faith must be exercised as it develops. Learning doctrine develops faith. As this occurs, faith has the increasing ability of perception, of learning more and greater details in the Word of God. In addition, God has blessings which will only be yours if you relate totally to the integrity of God by learning doctrine, 1 Peter 1:7‑9.
1 Peter 1:7-9, “So that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 8and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9obtaining as the outcome of your faith the deliverance of your souls.”
Relationship with the integrity of God is greater than any pressure or disaster in life. It is more important than anything in life, whether failures, successes, pressures, or prosperity, 1 John 5:4‑5.
1 John 5:3-5, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. 4For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
So I repeat that relationship with the integrity of God is greater than any pressure or disaster in life. It is more important and more powerful than anything in life, whether failures, successes, pressures, or prosperity. Therefore, we need to adjust to the justice and timing of God in our lives and place our complete faith and trust in Him, even in times of adversity and distress, and never have vengeful thoughts or take vengeful actions towards those who have wronged us. Instead we are to WAIT on the Lord utilizing the Faith-Rest life, who will always deliver us!!!
Prov 20:23, “Differing weights are an abomination to the LORD, and a false scale is not good.”
As we noted in vs. 10 and Prov 11:1, we see that “differing weights,” EBEN WA EBEN, literally meaning a “stone and a stone,” represents deceit and cheating in business, which is an “abomination to the Lord,” TO’EBAH YHWH. This is doubly emphasized in the second half where “a false scale,” MIRMAH MO’ZENAYIM, “is not good,” LO TOB, which is an understatement for effect, as it parallels “abomination.”
The “differing weights” represent the individual. It represents the person’s intent, (mental attitude) and overt actions of lying, cheating and/or stealing in business transactions.
The “false scale” represents a corrupt system or organization. So whether it is an individual or an entire company and its organizational structure, if there is corruption involved, it is an abomination to the Lord, which means He hates or detests it to the core.
As we have noted, Deut 25:13-16 is God’s mandate to Israel for how they should act: with honesty and integrity in all of their business transactions. And if they do, God promises a blessing, “your days will be prolonged in your land.” But when they do not, it is an abomination to the Lord, with the result of the loss of blessings and Divine discipline, cf. Ezek 45:9-12; Amos 8:5ff; Micah 6:9ff.
Fairness, honesty and integrity in business are the results of applying Impersonal Love inside of God’s Plan for your life, Lev 19:32-37, i.e., “loving your neighbor as you love yourself.”
This verse placed after vs. 22, with the exhortation to “not get your own revenge,” reminds us that sometimes we will be cheated in various business transactions we are involved in, but nevertheless, we are not to cheat others in return or try to illicitly make up for the loss we suffered.
As Prov 26:4 tells us, if we respond to a fool like a fool, we too will become fools. It tells us that our spiritual life is not only for when we are at church, but is a part of our everyday tasks and jobs, and God is very concerned about what we do in our everyday lives. As Waltke notes, “Life in the market place and religion are inseparable.”
This passage also assures us that God does see those occasions when someone has cheated you and will defend or avenge you. Therefore, in faith-rest, you trust that God will punish those who have cheated you, and you do not seek or take your own personal revenge.
Prov 20:24, “Man’s steps are ordained by the LORD, how then can man understand his way?”
This verse is closely related to Prov 16:1, 9; 19:21; 21:30, and speaks to the Lord’s attribute of sovereignty.
“Man’s steps” is the noun GEBER, גֶּבֶר with the noun MITS’ADH, מִצְעָד in the plural that means “steps,” or the course of one’s life. It is a metaphor for every decision and activity. It is used only three times in the O.T., here and in Psa 37:23 and Dan 11:43.
Psa 37:23, “The steps of a man are established by the LORD; and He delights in his way.”
GEBER refers to a “young man,” usually at the height of his power. Some also see the use of this word meaning “one who has an intimate relationship with God.” Therefore, some translate this as “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.”
Then we have “how then can man understand his way?” which is the interrogative MAH for “how?” with the noun ADAM meaning “man or mankind / humankind,” and the Qal Imperfect of the verb BIN for “to understand, discern or perceive.” The rhetorical question makes this “understanding” an impossibility.
So it takes us from a young man in his full strength whose way is established by God, to all of mankind. This is an “a fortiori” argument. If even a strong and powerful young man cannot determine his steps, how can any member of the human race discern the way his steps will take? It shifts the focus from humanity in its strength to humanity in its earth-bound limitations.
At first glance this verse may lead one to throw up their hands and say, “why bother!”, the Lord will take care of it. But remember that we are exhorted throughout Proverbs to be diligent in what we do, and plan well, Prov 14:16; 21:5; 22:3, based on wise counsel, Prov 11:14; 12:15; 15:22; 19:20; 20:5, 18; 27:9.
Nevertheless, planning cannot overcome the purposes of God in our lives and in fact becomes part of it, Prov 16:1, 4, 9; 21:30ff. This verse is just setting the playing field as we remember that our Lord is Sovereign over all things, especially our lives. Therefore, we must intentionally subordinate ourselves to His revealed purposes and accept the outcomes as accomplishing His will. It counsels us to have confidence in planning and our work, knowing that the purposes of our Lord will stand.
Likewise, this proverb does not condemn evaluation or trying to figure out what went wrong in a situation. It simply tells us that our analysis can only draw conclusions based on tangible realities, and therefore should be tentative and humble, knowing that the ultimate reasons may be unknowable and only credited to Divine providence, as we faith-rest in Him and His answers.
Therefore, we see that people do not understand their ways because God makes the actual direction and destiny of their free will actions subservient to His plan. We each have responsibility for the choices we make, i.e., the direction and orientation of our lives, and for our steps, i.e., the decisions and actions we take. But the Lord determines the realization and the attaining of His goal. Therefore, the wise person looks to the Lord and not to their own hands to work out the course of justice in their lives.
This truth is what led Jerimiah to state in Jer 10:23-24, “I know, O LORD, that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps. 24Correct me, O LORD, but with justice; not with Your anger, or You will bring me to nothing.”
“Only God knows the end from the beginning. With Him, all is one eternal Now. Who else but He can direct our steps? Happy the soul who can commit all his ways unto Him and sing with confidence and holy restfulness, “My times are in thy hand,” Psa 31:15.” (H.A. Ironside Expository Commentary – Proverbs.)
Linked with our previous verse, we see that the Lord’s sovereignty in vs. 24, executes His justice in vs. 23. And comparing our last three verses we see the believer looking to the Lord for help rather than avenging himself, vs. 22, because the Lord in His Divine outrage will punish any wrongdoing, vs. 23, and in His sovereignty directs the steps and the destiny of everyone, thereby enveloping each in His Divine sovereign plan, vs. 24.
Prov 20:25, “It is a snare for a man to say rashly, “It is holy!” And after the vows to make inquiry.”
This proverb describes a person who dedicates something to the Temple or Tabernacle, (ultimately the Lord), on impulse, Eccl 5:1-8, and only later realizes that it will be lost to his use. Such a vow was voluntary, Deut 23:22, but once it was made, it had to be paid, Deut 23:21, 23; Num 30:2, 15.
“It is a snare,” is the noun MOQESH that means, “a snare, trap, bait or lure.” Here it speaks to the moral pitfall of a foolish mouth, Prov 12:13; 18:7.
Prov 12:13, “An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, but the righteous will escape from trouble.”
“Say rashly” is the hapaxlegomena, (used only once in the O.T.), of the Qal Imperfect verb YALA, יָלַע that is derived from LA’A means, “to stammer, swallow or devour.” It means, “to speak rashly, wildly or carelessly, to blurt out or utter inconsiderately.” It indicates the predicaments people get themselves into by making foolish vows. These sudden exclamations find the person relieved of his property before he knows it. On the contrary, wisdom weighs its words before speaking.
“It is holy” is the Noun QODESH that means, “holy or holiness, something consecrated or set apart.” In this case, it is setting apart something as an offering to the Lord.
“And after the vow,” is the Substantive Adverb ACHAR, with the Noun NEDHER, that refers in general to any kind of votive (voluntary) offerings or promised gifts to the Lord.
“To make inquiry, is the verb BAQAR. BAQAR, בָּקַר means, “to investigate, inquire or inspect.” It means to look carefully after or into someone or something. Here it is in the intensive active Piel Infinitive to caution against rashly vowing without first “reflecting” on the vow that you are going to make, before you make it.
Therefore, we need to carefully think through whether we have the ability and the means to pay the vow we desire to make and how it will affect others. After making the vow it is already too late to investigate these matters. Therefore, unless the vower has counted the cost and is fully prepared to pay it, he will find at the time payment is due, his situation will be like a dumb animal that enters a trap.
1 Cor 16:2, “On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.” Paul did not want the Corinthians to be making emotional decisions to give when he was present. This avoids bragamonies and hyper zealotness.
The principle is, you determine how much you can give from your prosperity without emotions or arrogance. You do not give if you are broke or if giving would place a hardship on your family.
Scripture cautions us against needlessly shackling ourselves with promises we cannot or later do not want to keep. We are at full liberty to not make these promises in the first place, but having vowed, we are then bound to pay them in full, Deut 23:22-24; Eccl 5:1-6.
So this proverb has to do with careless speech. Fools, who are ignorant of the value of speech, talk carelessly Prov 12:18; 18:13; 29:20, and without thought for the consequences. The wise, who know better than to speak without thinking, reflect carefully on the cost of their words and actions, and so preserve themselves from many troubles, Prov 14:16; 22:3; 27:12.
The principle is, do not make a vow until you are sure of what you can do, and do not publicly dedicate your life to God until you have thought it through. God does not want that kind of a sentimental decision. Therefore, rash and zealous religious excitement that leads to hasty promises or vows that are not kept is no substitute for a solid character that functions in the utmost integrity and thinks soberly with well-balanced judgent which leads to “doing what you say” and “saying what you WILL do.”
In conclusion, Waltke notes, “These verses reassert truths about the Lord found in Prov 16:1-9, as it escalates from a proverb rejecting self-vengeance, vs. 22a, to looking to the Lord for help by faith-resting, vs. 22b, to an assertion that He detests human injustice, vs. 23, and has the final say in every human being’s life, vs. 24, underscored by the imprudence of making rash vows, vs. 25.”
Mat 6:16-18, “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 17But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
Prov 20:26, “A wise king winnows the wicked, and drives the threshing wheel over them.”
Like vs. 8, this verse uses harvest imagery, but in reverse order, to describe the king’s judicial authority; the image of winnowing and threshing grain. This proverb speaks to the king’s responsibility through his judicial authority to cleanse the community from evil perpetrators.
“Winnows” is the same word used for “disperses” in vs. 8, the verb ZARAH. Here it is in the Piel Participle for intensified ongoing action. Winnowing is the process of separating the edible grain from the useless chaff. In fact it was the second action performed, as “threshing” was first performed to crush and separated the hull (chaff) from the good grain. This could be done in three different ways, you could drive an animal repeatedly over it, Deut 25:4, roll a weight or “wheel” over it; this might have been Samson’s fate, Judges 16:21, or beat it with wooden flails, known from Egyptian tomb paintings. Once threshed, both the chaff and grain were tossed up into the air, (winnowed), where the wind would blow away the lighter chaff and the useful grain would fall back into the basket or blanket.
The chaff that that the “wise king,” CHAKAM MELEK, is to winnow is “the wicked,” RASHA, those who break the law and cause harm and/or injury to others within the community.
As noted above, the first action performed to the newly harvested grain is seen in the second half of this verse, “and drives the wheel over them.” The word “threshing” does not appear in the Hebrew but is alluded to, as you will see.
“Drives” is the causative active Hiphil Imperfect of SHUB that means to continually or repeatedly, “return or turn back.” So the king causes the “wheel,” OPHAN, אוֹפַן, to turn back “over them,” which is AL with the masculine pronominal suffix. Therefore, “turning back the wheel” becomes “drives” and explains the process of threshing,
“Wheel,” OPHAN is a very interesting word. It is used here for the first time in Proverbs. It is first used for the chariot wheels of the Egyptians that the Lord caused to fall off while they were pursuing the freed Israelites, Ex 14:25. So we see the Lord defending His people, which the righteous king is also to do as he winnows out the evil person among the people.
It is also predominately used in the book of Ezekiel to describe the wheels associated with the four Living Creatures, Ezek 1, 10. Those wheels could move in 3 dimensional direction, Ezek 1:19, and were full of eyes, Ezek 10:12. As such the wheels symbolize the omnipresence of God, which gives us another metaphor for Proverbs.
Prov 15:3, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, watching the evil and the good.”
Just as it would be impossible for a person to escape from one of the wheels in Ezekiel’s vision, (all seeing and moving in all directions), so too is it impossible to escape from the omniscience and omnipresence of God.
Therefore, when the king drives the wheel of his justice in the threshing process, we see once again that he is an extension of God’s omniscient and omnipresent righteousness and justice. As such, we see the tie in with vs. 22, where we are told to not take vengeance into our own hands, but are to “wait for the Lord,” who at times will use the judicial system to avenge you.
This is accomplished by means of the threshing process, which metaphorically stands for the judicial trial process designed to distinguish between the truth and the lie, innocence and guilt is determined, and the winnowing process that metaphorically means to disperse into oblivion, which in a sense purifies the grain by the removal of the chaff, represents the sentencing of the guilty criminal who is removed from society for its good.
This is the lofty responsibility that all those involved in our judicial system, (attorneys, judges, juries, and legislators), hold, as an extension of God’s arm to cleanse a community from evil and separate the wicked from the righteous. That is why we call it “the long arm of the law.”
This is a solemn responsibility as a type of The Lord, who in the end will separate the evil from the righteous, Mal 3:2; Mat 3:12.
Therefore, the king’s activity in judgment, (judge and jury today), was to be no less careful and just as thorough as the thresher and winnower. The king was to determine guilt and innocence, and his sentences were to demonstrate which was which. Cf. Prov 16:1-9, with 10-15; Rom 12:17-21; 13:1-7.
Prov 20:27, “The spirit of man is the lamp of the LORD, searching all the innermost parts of his being.”
Continuing with the king’s judicial authority, here we see the importance of applying the wisdom that comes from Bible Doctrine in your soul when making decisions.
“The spirit of man,” NESHAMAH ADAM, is speaking about your human spirit as “the lamp of the Lord,” NER YHWH, or the illumination of the Lord, another metaphor for God’s omniscience. Combined it means the application of Bible doctrine as an extension of the Lord’s justices. It also asserts the close connection between the Lord and the believer, and relativizes the power of the king, as he too is under God’s scrutiny in this close relationship, because the Lord, who inspires his king, Prov 16:10 and guides him, Prov 21:1, knows every human thought and motive.
Therefore, the believer can trust the Lord to help him and not to avenge himself, vs. 22, because the Lord, in addition to being moral, vs. 23, and sovereign, vs. 24, is also omnipresent and omniscient, vs. 27, and all four attributes are essential for the Lord to execute perfect justice. This is an example of the Essence of God Rationale.
And just as a lamp light’s up a dark place, so too does our human spirit, “search,” Qal active of CHAPHAS, meaning the act of thoroughly searching, “all the innermost parts of his being,” KOL CHEDHER BETEN. Literally it reads “all the chambers of the stomach,” but is used idiomatically for the heart or right lobe of the soul. “Chambers” portrays a person as a series of rooms, each of which must be carefully searched or scrutinized, until the entire building, person, has been explored, cf. Prov 18:8; 20:30.
So we see that doctrine stored in the right lobe of your soul applied by your human spirit affects the entire mentality of your soul, as it battles against and overcomes even the temptations of your sin nature. As a result, your thinking will be in-line with the righteousness and justices of God. And as one ordained to make judicial decisions, your righteous judgments are the “lamp of the Lord,” which means an extension of His righteousness to cull evil and wickedness, (darkness), from the community.
In summary, Bible doctrine applied from the right lobe of your soul in your thoughts and speech serves as the Lord’s flashlight to expose human thought and inclination, and illuminate the darkest recesses of your life. As a result of the exposure of sin, human good or evil found therein, that same doctrine will wash it clean; i.e., remove the garbage in your soul. Now with a renewed mind, you will make good decisions to uphold righteousness and remove wickedness.
Prov 20:28, “Loyalty and truth preserve the king, and he upholds his throne by righteousness.”
In vs. 26 we saw the king’s execution of justice against the wicked.
In vs. 27 we noted the application of Bible doctrine as an extension of the Lord’s justice.
Now we see the king’s unflinching loyalty to the righteous.
“Loyalty” is the noun CHESED that means, “grace, kindness, mercy, loyalty, goodness, faithfulness or steadfast love.” This is the expression of Impersonal and Unconditional Love; AGAPE love.
Tied with loyalty here is “truth” EMETH that can also mean, “faithfulness, reliability, firmness, or truth.”
Predominately translated “truth,” it stands for God’s Word / Bible Doctrine and is the means by which AGAPE love is expressed.
Here we see that these two “preserve,” the Qal Imperfect of NATSAR, “to guard, preserve or keep,” “the king,” MELEK.
NATSAR refers to people maintaining things entrusted to them, especially to keeping the truths of God in both actions and mind, Psa 119:100, 115.
Psa 119:115, “Depart from me, evildoers, that I may observe (NATSAR) the commandments of my God.”
God’s Word is to be kept with our whole hearts, Psa 119:69; our hearts, in turn, ought to be maintained in a right state, Prov 4:23, and we are to keep our speech under control, Psa 34:13; 141:3;
Then we have, “and he upholds his throne by righteousness,” which begins with the Qal Perfect of SA’AD, סָעַד for “upholds” that means, “to support or strengthen” and is related to an Arabic word meaning “forearm.” So we see the metaphor of “the long arm of the law” once again. It primarily refers to the support and strength given by God to someone in need, cf. Psa 18:35; 94:18; 119:117. It looks back to the king as its subject and means, to maintain someone or something by supplying it with things necessary for existence, such as food for the heart, Gen 18:5; Judges 19:5, 8; 1 Kings 13:7; Psa 104:15.
With SA’AD is KISSE for “seat, chair, throne, etc., that can also describe a ruler himself,” and BE CHESED for “by righteousness.” But as we have noted above, CHESED means “grace, steadfast love, etc.”
This proverb warns kings or judicial leaders that the primary standard for success was universal justice and that they were ultimately responsible to establish justice in the land, Prov 20:8, 26. A strong sense of justice reflected a king’s commitment to the Covenant / His Word, Deut 17:18ff, and established him securely on the throne, Prov 16:12; 29:4, 14.
So we see the importance of applying Impersonal and Unconditional love from Bible doctrine in the soul, when making judgments for the helpless member in need of being avenged, vs. 22. This means trusting in the Lord in faith-rest application of the wisdom of Bible doctrine from your soul, and not trusting in yourself.
Following this rule exemplifies the Christ-like nature as the final fulfillment of this proverb is found in Jesus Christ Himself, cf. Psa 72:1-2, 4; Isa 16:4b-5.
Prov 20:29, “The glory of young men is their strength, and the honor of old men is their gray hair.”
Here we see the mutual dependence of the generations on each other by featuring their splendors, the strength of youth and the wisdom of the aged.
This proverb begins with “glory,” which is TIPH’ARATH that means “adornment, ornament, splendor or that which is made glorious or beautiful,” which describes what “strength,” KOACH, was to a “young man,” BACHUR, and what “honor,” HADAR, הָדָר that means, “honor or ornament and refers to the lifting up of the status of an individual or group,” that is the result of years of experience, signified by “gray hair,” SEYBAH, on an “old man,” ZAQEN.
On both the youth and aged we see crowns. Both of them have something of great value to offer to a community that must be honored by all. Age is a sign of the blessing that attends a life wisely lived, Prov 3:2, 16; 4:10; 9:11. The young may be naive, but they have energy and strength. The elderly may not have the strength that was once theirs, but the wisdom and insight that they have gained by their experience make up for their lack of physical ability. Like other proverbs, this verse encourages mutual respect and joy for each other’s gifts and abilities. Cf. Prov 16:31; 17:6.
In this we also see two analogies of God’s Word resident within your soul, as it gives both strength to the weak and wisdom to the fool. And when you apply it you will be adorned with honor.
How important it is for a king or those with judicial authority to apply both the strength and wisdom that comes from Bible doctrine. And when they do, both they and the community will be honored.
Prov 20:30, “Stripes that wound scour away evil, and strokes reach the innermost parts.”
Here we see the application of that strength and wisdom in judicial punishment for the wicked criminal. As we have seen, we can learn the easy way through the intake and application of God’s Word in our lives, or we can learn the hard way, as seen here through disciplinary actions.
“Stripes” is the noun CHABURAH, חֲבֻרָה that is one of three variant spellings, but all meaning the same, “a bruise, wound or injury.” It was used of our Lord’s wounds in Isa 53:5.
These bruises “that wound,” PESTA, פֶּצַע, meaning a physical injury, “scour away,” MARAQ, מָרַק in the causative Hiphil Imperfect that describes the process of “to polishing, cleaning, (i.e., removing thoroughly through hard rubbing),” “evil,” RA.
This is reemphasized in the second half with “and strokes reach the innermost parts,” where “strokes,” is the Noun MAKKAH, מַכָּה that means, “striking, wound, defeat, or plague,” and “innermost parts” is once again, CHEDER BETEN.
This proverb indicates that wounds or bruises can provide spiritual and ethical benefits for the wise and that stern punishment is sometimes necessary for disciplinary and educational purposes. Therefore, in AGAPE love, the king or judicial authority, should not shy away from harsh sentencing since it will have a cleansing effect on both the individual and the community, cf. Prov 3:11f; 13:24; 19:18; 22:15; 23:13f; 25:11f; 29:15, 17; Heb 12:5-13.