The Book of Proverbs
Chapter 21 continues the themes of Chapter 20, where we have varying principles exhorting the believer to possess virtue, honor and integrity, as he functions in the righteousness and justice of God by having Bible Doctrine resident within his soul.
Vs. 1, Continuation of Chapter 20’s Exhortations to Those in Leadership Positions: Recognize the Sovereignty of God.
Vs. 2-3, Introduction and Main Theme of the Chapter. The Sovereignty of God Desires His Children to Walk in Righteousness and Justice.
Vs. 4-8, The Defeat of the Wicked.
Vs. 9, The Refrain About the “Contentious Wife.”
Vs. 10-18, Triumph of the Righteous Over the Wicked.
Vs. 19, The Refrain About the “Contentious Wife.”
Vs. 20-29, The Lasting Gratification and Establishment of the Righteous and the Demise of the Wicked.
Vs. 30-31, Conclusion, The Sovereignty, Omniscience and Omnipotence of the Lord that Brings Him and Us Victor
Therefore, our overall theme of this chapter is, “The defeat of the wicked and the triumph and establishment of the righteous by the Sovereignty, Omniscience and Omnipotence of the Lord.”
Prov 21:1, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.”
Chapter 20 ended with several principles regarding “the king” who has judicial authority. Therefore, we noted several principles that are pertinent for all who have judicial authority. Now, in the first verse of Chapter 21, we have another exhortation for kings, i.e., those in rulership positions. In this verse we see the sovereignty of God over earthly rulers.
“The king’s heart,” MELEK LEB, “is like channels of water,” PELEGH, (canal, channel, river, or stream), MAYIM, “in the hand of the Lord,” BE YADH YHWH.
The channel here refers to something that is made. Therefore, it is directed by another. The sovereign all powerful God is able to move the heart, thinking and decision making, of any leader of any nation, state or city as He desires. Satan may rule the world, but God controls history. The water means blessings to the people, and denotes decisions that bless, not curse. The analogy of an artificial stream of water provides a steady, directed, full supply of refreshing, living giving water.
The second half tells us, “He turns it,” which is the causative active Hiphil Imperfect of the verb NATAH that means, “to spread out, turn aside or bend,” “wherever,” AL KOL ASHER, “He wishes,” which is the Qal Imperfect of CHAPHETS, that means, “pleased or delighted.”
As easily as a farmer digging a hole in the bank of a river so that water would flow to his field, that is how easy it is for the Lord to guide a king so that he accomplishes God’s purposes to bless the people.
This is both a warning and a comfort, reminding the king that he rules by the will of God, not by his own strength, and that he is not the sovereign power, but rules under the requirements of God’s Word, Deut 17:18ff; John 19:11; Rom 13:1.
John 19:11, “Jesus answered (Pilate), “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above…”
Rom 13:1, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.”
The king’s or civilian leader’s true role is to be a regent, exercising dominion on behalf of and in the name of the Lord. His responsibility, therefore, is not to amass great wealth for himself, but to ensure justice in the land and faithfulness to the Lord.
Prov 16:15, “In the light of a king’s face is life, and his favor is like a cloud with the spring rain.”
Prov 19:12, “The king’s wrath is like the roaring of a lion, but his favor is like dew on the grass.”
Daniel 2:20-23, “Daniel said, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him. 21It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding. 22It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him. 23To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for You have given me wisdom and power; even now You have made known to me what we requested of You, for You have made known to us the king’s matter”.”
Vernon McGee notes, “A man may be a pharaoh in Egypt, a king of Babylon, a Caesar of Rome, an Alexander the Great, a Napoleon, a Joe Stalin, an Adolph Hitler, or any great ruler of the future. Regardless of how powerful a man may become politically, it can be stated as an axiom that no man can act in independence of God. Many of these rulers thought they could, and men today may still think they can. But the truth is that no man is free from God. No man can act independently. We have a Declaration of Independence in this country. Right now it is being used to declare our independence from God. We believe in liberty; so we’ve declared we are free from God! However, we are not free from God. We cannot act independently. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord,” and God is going to turn him just as He turns the course of a little babbling brook that runs down a mountainside.” As the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” No king nor ruler nor any individual can act independently of God.
I wish we had more men in public office who express a dependence upon God and show it in their lives. I wish they would quit telling us that they have the solution for all the problems of the world. They haven’t. It is a misrepresentation for any man to say that. No man is independent of Almighty God, and we need to recognize our dependence upon Him. Oh, may this country be called back to a dependence upon God before it is too late. We need a new declaration, but this time it should be a declaration of dependence upon Almighty God. The only way such a change can come about is by the people of this nation returning to the Word of God. That is why it is so important for us to proclaim God’s Word.” (Thru The Bible.
Given this fact of God’s sovereignty over earthly rulers, it is a great encouragement to pray for our leaders so that God would turn their hearts to justice, ruling in the fear of God, cf. 1 Tim 2:1-3.
1 Tim 2:1-3, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.”
Vs. 2-3, Introduction and Main Theme.
Prov 21:2, “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the hearts.”
Continuing the theme of God’s sovereignty, we see its application to everyone in the omniscience of God, as He examines every man’s heart. This is similar to Prov 16:2, “All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the LORD weighs the motives.”
The difference between this verse and ours is the plural “ways” versus the singular “way” in our verse. Therefore, God knows everyone’s heart and the motivation behind every decision made. He knows both the motives of the individual’s and the motives of the totality of decisions made, as all are under His scrutiny.
“Every man’s way,” is KOL DEREK ISH, where we could also say “Every way of a man.”
“Is upright” is YASHAR for “straight, reliable, upright, and level.”
“In his eyes” is BE AYIN.
Many people feel that their actions and way of life are perfectly acceptable. However, God looks into the heart and judges their thoughts and motives, as the second half tells us.
It begins with the contrasting conjunctive WA, “but,” with the Qal active Participle Verb TAKHAN that means, “to examine, assess or evaluate.” The thing that is examined is the LEB, “heart,” and the one who does the examining is YHWH, “The Lord.”
Here again in comparison to Prov 16:2, God examines the “heart,” versus the “motives” of 16:2, because the heart is the source of all decision making. Remember the Sin Nature only tempts. It is the heart that decides what you will do or not do and why (the motives).
God’s power of discernment goes beyond unmasking those who fool others; He even finds out those who have fooled themselves.
The link with Vs. 1 is that “God will not divert life-giving water upon those who act according to their own value system. Self-distrust must be matched by bold confidence in the Lord, who keeps his promises to bless the upright (see 3:5; 16:3).” (Waltke, NIC)
Prov 3:5, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.”
Prov 16:3, “Commit your works to the LORD and your plans will be established.”
So we see that the Lord evaluates our motives and not merely our actions. We think we know ourselves, but the Lord knows our hearts, and His knowledge is based on examination and judgment of the value and quality of our decision making, which should be based on the application of His Word resident within our souls.
Prov 21:3, “To do righteousness and justice is desired by the LORD rather than sacrifice.”
Alluding to God’s ability to discern the intentions of the heart, this verse tells us the standard for measuring what counts before God; righteousness and justice, (functioning in the integrity of God), is the priority.
“To do righteousness and justice” is the Qal Infinitive of the Verb ASAH where the Infinitive intensifies the certainty of the verb in regard to the Lord’s desire. This is linked with the Nouns TSEDAQAH and MISHPAT. In other words, He absolutely desires us to operate in righteousness and justice, His integrity, rather than in mindless rituals and sacrifices.
“Is desired by the Lord” is the reflexive use of the Niphal Participle of the Verb BACHAR that means, “to choose or select” along with the Noun YHWH. Therefore, righteousness and justice are the qualities carefully chosen by God for the believer to operate in.
Then we have the contrasting comparison, “rather than sacrifice,” which is the Adverb MIN with the Noun ZEBACH for “sacrifice.” This tells us that there is no value in simply going through a religious ritual; a ritual without reality.
The comparative does not exclude sacrifice as a good thing, but simply states that the righteous and just heart, in application of AGAPE love, is preferred over those who exclude it, yet offer sacrifices religiously. Therefore, we see that the Lord prefers AGAPE love towards mankind over legalistic religion, Mat 9:13; 12:7; 22:37-39; 23:23; Mark 12:33f; cf. Heb 10:1-18.
That is why our Lord called the Pharisees “whitewashed tombs;” they had no AGAPE love in application of righteousness and justice, Mat 23:27.
This will be further emphasized in vs. 27, where “the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,” and in vs. 7, where the arrogant wicked “refuse to act with justice.”
This priority of ethics over ritual was also taught by Moses. He first ratified the moral law before being given any ritual instructions, Ex 24. Likewise, the prophets taught this same principle in 1 Sam 15:22; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21; Isa 1:11-14; Micah 6:6-8; Psa 40:6-8; 50:7ff; Isa 1:11-17; 58:5-14, as do other passages in Proverbs, Prov 15:8, 29; 21:27, 29; 28:9, 13.
1 Sam 15:22, “Samuel said, ‘Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams’.”
Hosea 6:6, “For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
Prov 15:8, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is His delight.”
Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
The requirements of the Law include sacrifice, Lev 1-7, but the most important commandments are that we love the Lord and those around us with all that is within us, Lev 19:18; Deut 6:5; Mat 22:34-40.
Therefore, we note that the Lord requires righteousness before religious service; to do what is “right and just” is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. It does not teach that ritual acts of worship are to be avoided; rather, it stresses that religious acts are valueless without righteous living.
Given the judicial overtones in the past few verses, as J. Vernon McGee put it, “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”
Vs. 4-8: The Defeat of the Wicked.
Prov 21:4, “Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, is sin.”
“Haughty eyes” is the noun, RUM that means, “height or pride” with AYIN for “eyes.” We have noted the verb RUM previously, but here it is the noun that is also used in Prov 25:3. Here it stands for the prideful and arrogant person.
“Proud heart” is RACHAB LEB linked to RUM AYIN with the WA conjunction. Therefore the arrogant and proud are one and the same person here. RACHAB, רָחָב is an Adjective that means, “broad, wide, spacious, or large,” used for the person with an enlarged concept of themselves. We noted the verb in Prov 18:16. Here, as in Prov 28:25 and Psa 101:5, it stands for “pride or arrogance.” So we see a person with unrestrained thoughts, ambitions, plans, etc., a heart that recognizes no boundaries to curb its aspirations, and behaves as if it were God.
Psa 101:5, “Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy; No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure.”
So we have synonymous concepts speaking about the proud and arrogant person with their outward haughty eyes and their inner audacious hearts. We also see a progression as what the eyes see enter into the heart. And each pollutes the other, so that a haughty spirit also distorts a person’s perception.
These two things are described as “the lamp of the wicked,” NIYR RASHA. This chapter, along with Chapter 11, uses RASHA 8 times, the second most utilization in Proverbs; the first most is Chapter 10 where it is used 12 times.
In contrast to Prov 20:27, where “the spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord,” here we see that the thing that illuminates and permeates the wicked person’s heart is pride and arrogance. That is what fills their soul and that is what drives them in their sinful thoughts, speech and actions. If the image of the lamp refers primarily to the eyes (i.e., as the place through which light enters the body; cf. Mat 6:22f; Luke 11:34ff), then this proverb warns that the arrogant are so ruined that even their light is darkness, cf. Prov 2:12-15; 4:19.
In addition, some believe NIYR, spelled NER in the Hebrew text, is the NER that means, “tillage or to plow a field” as used in the Septuagint (LXX) translation. In that context, pride and arrogance is what the wicked plow, and therefore sow, with the harvest or product of sin.
Finally, this verse qualifies pride and arrogance as “sin,” CHATTATH, where its central meaning is “to miss the mark or fail.” What is also interesting about CHATTATH is that sometimes it is translated as a “sin offering,” e.g., Ex 29:14. Therefore, we could also say that this is what the wicked offer up to God, their pride and arrogance which is total rejected by God, cf. vs.27. Waltke calls these types “megalomaniacs who do not do righteous and justice.” This type of person must be avoided, since his or her friendship and counsel will bring nothing but ruin to you, cf. Prov 10:32.
Prov 21:5, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.”
The first half reads, “The plans of,” MACHASHABAH, “the diligent,” CHARUTS, “surely to advantage,” AK LE MOTHAR, where MOTHAR means, “advantage or profit.” As we have seen throughout Proverbs, the diligent are those who plan well, seek counsel, work hard and do a good job at their work. The diligent also calculate into their plans the sovereignty of God. As a result, they will profit in their work and be blessed. So this verse exhorts industriousness.
In contrast, the second half defines the arrogant wicked, “But everyone who is hasty,” WA KOL UTS, “surely to poverty,” AK LE MACHSOR, where MACHSOR means, “want or lack.” It warns about the danger of hasty shortcuts and eludes that the one who hastens to get rich and acts without reckoning with the Divine order. They will come to ruin, wanting and lacking. On the other hand, patience and planning leads to prosperity as it does take into consideration the sovereignty of God and the application of impersonal love as they do their job unto the Lord. Therefore, the diligent stands opposed to the rash and imprudent, as we noted in Prov 11:24-28.
Prov 21:6, “The acquisition of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor, the pursuit of death.”
Here we see an example of the hasty profiteer who comes to ruin.
“The acquisition of” is the noun PO’AL which we noted in Prov 20:11, that means, “deed or work.”
“Treasures” is the noun OTSAR that means, “treasury, storehouse or supplies,” Prov 8:21; 10:2; 15:16; 21:20.
The work performed to receive these treasures is “by a lying tongue,” BE SHEQER LASHON. So they are procuring treasures by deceptive speech. “Their antisocial speech falsifies facts to fill their vaults with stores of food and/or precious metal at the community’s expense.” (Waltke, NIC)
The treasures acquired by a lying tongue “is a fleeting vapor,” which is HEBEL NADAPH, נָדַף in the simple passive Niphal Participle that means, “a breath that blows away,” just as the wind blows the chaff away.
Psa 1:4, “The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind drives away.”
Job 21:18, “Are they as straw before the wind, and like chaff which the storm carries away?”
This type of profiteer is in reality in the “pursuit of death,” which is BAQASH in the intensive active Piel Participle, with the noun MAWETH that means, they are intensively seeking their own death. This is their ill-fated consequences. In other words, their riches will lead to their ruin. “Ironically, the treasures procured through deception are themselves deceptive; they are as insubstantial as breath.” (Ibid)
Prov 13:11, “Wealth obtained by fraud dwindles, but the one who gathers by labor increases it.”
Prov 20:17, “Bread obtained by falsehood is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel.”
Prov 21:7, “The violence of the wicked will drag them away, because they refuse to act with justice.”
Here we see another description of the wicked person, as one who acts violently towards others. This passage begins with “the violence of the wicked,” which is the Noun SHOD, שֹׁד for “violence or devastation,” that describes an act of violence or oppression, with the Adjective RASHA once again. The wicked persons violence may include physical, financial, (e.g., by not showing mercy to creditors), manipulating the legal system, (e.g., by bribing witnesses), or being their own law in some other way.
“Will drag them away” is the Qal Imperfect of the Verb GARAR, גָּרַר that means, “to scrape, to drag, to ruminate, or to saw.” Here the idea of dragging is used as a fisherman dragging a net to catch fish or the image of a police officer dragging a criminal away to prison. In other words, they will be caught in their own drag net. Both allude to a reversal of fortune for the wicked, as they sought to capture the wealth of others illicitly, but now they themselves are caught “red handed.”
In the second half we have the causal coordinating conjunction KI, “because” with the intensive active Piel Perfect of MA’AN for “they refuse.” This refusal is the act of the prideful and arrogant. They refuse to treat others with honesty, dignity, respect, fairness, righteousness, and justice, as God requires.
Next we are told what they refuse “to do,” LE ASAH, they refuse to do “justice,” MISHPAT. So they absolutely refuse to be fair and honest, just and right with others. That is the epitome of arrogance. Therefore, they suffer the Sin Unto Death, as noted in the previous verse, and here, as they are thrown into jail. In the final analysis they can blame only themselves, for in arrogance they chose to persist in evil, rather than do what is right in the eyes of God and their fellow man.
Principle: Leaders might be in positions of power, but they must not abuse their privilege, lest they be destroyed.
“Riches accumulated by means of honest, wholesome toil give pleasure and a measure of satisfaction to their possessor. But the hasty gathering of wealth by lying and deceit, often coupled with downright robbery, will bring sorrow and shame with it. One may possess boundless stores of gold and silver and yet be as needy as the Arab lost in the desert. When almost dead for want of food, he found a package in the track of a caravan. He opened it with trembling eagerness, hoping it might be dates. He dropped it in dire disappointment as he groaned, “It’s only pearls!” Those pearls were worth thousands of dollars, but they could not feed a starving man. So with wealth illegally gotten. It cannot satisfy. He who possesses it will be in deepest and most abject poverty after all. Life will be a weary round of frustration and disappointment, and he will be left to groan at last, “All is vanity, and pursuit of the wind.” See Ecclesiastes 5:10-17.” (H.A. Ironside Expository Commentary – Proverbs.)
Prov 21:8, “The way of a guilty man is crooked, but as for the pure, his conduct is upright.”
This proverb tells us that deeds reveal the heart. Righteous behavior reveals righteous character and sinful acts betray the wicked. We begin with the wicked person.
“The way of a guilty man is crooked,” is DEREK WAZAR ISH HAPHAKPAK, where the Adjectives WAZAR and HAPHAKPAK are both hapaxlegomenas, (only used here in the entire OT), and mean “guilty and twisted,” respectfully.
Next we see the righteous person.
“But as for the pure,” is the contrasting conjunction WA with the Adjective ZAK, meaning pure or clean.
“His conduct is upright” is the Noun PO’AL for “work or deeds,” with the Noun YASHAR for “straight, reliable, level or upright.” It means walking in experiential sanctification as you express the righteousness and justice of God in impersonal love towards others in business transactions or the court room.
Therefore, your life will demonstrate what kind of a person you really are. If you are right with God, that will be revealed in your life. Bad men are underhanded, whereas good men are above board.
One scholar states regarding the Hebrew of this verse, “the syntax of the first line is itself fairly contorted, whereas the second line is straightforward, just like the man that each describes.” (Complete Biblical Library.) Therefore, the text resembles the people they are describing.
Vs. 8 brings this section to its conclusion, loading the arrogant, vs. 4, the hasty, vs. 5, the deceiver, vs. 6, the violent, vs. 7, with God’s evaluation, “guilty,” entailing their judgment. And the pure of heart who is diligent in all that they do will walk in righteousness.
“The ways of a guilty man are like the trail of the serpent. It is invariably a sign that something is radically wrong in his heart when a person’s path is crooked, and he has to be continually excusing and explaining. He who walks with God will be above reproach, for he will avoid every form of evil. The work of the pure is right. His life is like an open book, which explains itself and silences his enemies. Daniel was of this character; when the presidents and princes sought to find fault with him, “they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him” (Daniel 6:4). Ahab’s history is a solemn illustration of the crooked ways of a guilty man (1 Kings 16-22).” (H.A. Ironside Expository Commentary – Proverbs.)
Vs. 9, 19: Refrain, The Contentious Wife.
Prov 21:9, “It is better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.”
Prov 21:19, “It is better to live in a desert land than with a contentious and vexing woman.”
Rather than covering the same ground twice in this Chapter, and to save some skin on my back from the women in the audience who will want to skin me alive after preaching this, we will combine these two verses and look at the overall topic. Unfortunately though, I will have to cover this ground again when we get to Chapter 25, because vs. 24 is identical to vs. 9 in our Chapter, and in Chapter 27, vs. 15.
Prov 25:24, “It is better to live in a corner of the roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.”
Prov 27:15, “A constant dripping on a day of steady rain and a contentious woman are alike.”
I would like to begin by giving you various translations of this verse to see the range of topics we will discuss. I will then break the Hebrew down a bit.
The Kings James Version translates these passages as:
Prov 21:9, “It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.”
Prov 21:19, “It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.”
The Holman Christian Standard Bible says:
Prov 21:9, “Better to live on the corner of a roof than to share a house with a nagging wife.”
Prov 21:19, “Better to live in a wilderness than with a nagging and hot-tempered wife.”
The Message translates says:
Prov 21:9, “Better to live alone in a tumbledown shack than share a mansion with a nagging spouse.”
Prov 21:19. “Better to live in a tent in the wild than with a cross and petulant, (ill-tempered or sulky in a peevish manner), spouse.”
The ESV says:
Prov 21:9, “It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.”
Prov 21:19, “It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.”
The Bible in Basic English says:
Prov 21:9, “It is better to be living in an angle of the house-top, than with a bitter-tongued woman in a wide house.”
Prov 21:19, “It is better to be living in a waste land, than with a bitter-tongued and angry woman.”
The Living Bible says:
Prov 21:9, “It is better to live in the corner of an attic than with a crabby woman in a lovely home.”
Prov 21:19, “Better to live in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining woman.”
The New Living Translation says:
Prov 21:9, “It’s better to live alone in the corner of an attic than with a quarrelsome wife in a lovely home.”
Prov 21:19, “It’s better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife.”
LA Biblia de las Americas says:
Prov 21:9, “Mejor es vivir en un rincón del terrado que en una casa con mujer rencillosa.”
Prov 21:19, “Mejor es habitar en tierra desierta que con mujer rencillosa y molesta.
Therefore, this morning we are going to talk about the contentious, vexing, brawling, angry, nagging, hot-tempered, cross, petulant, quarrelsome, fretful, bitter-tongued, crabby, complaining, rencillosa, molesta, and as the Septuagint puts it MAXIMOS meaning, “warlike,” type of wife.
Just the type of woman every man is looking for, and if you can find one, I think Pastor Bill might be interested in meeting her… lol
So let’s take a closer look at what the Lord is saying through Solomon. And remember, Solomon knew what he was talking about. He had over 1,000 women.
Both vs. 9 and 19 begin with “it is better to live” which is the Hebrew Adjective TOB (tov), with the Qal Infinitive construct of the Verb YASHAB (yashav). TOB means, “good, pleasant, useful, or proper.” Because this is a comparison proverb, we say “it is better.” YASHAB means, “to sit or dwell,” where here “dwelling or living with” is the context. Vs. 9 also includes the Preposition LE, “to” before YASHAB, but vs. 19 does not, yet in an Infinitive construct it can be added to the English translation for context.
The “better place of dwelling” in vs. 9 is, “in a corner of a roof,” which is AL PINNAH GAGH. PINNAH most commonly is used in reference to architectural dimensions, the corners of a house, altars, streets, etc. The Noun GAGH, גָּג is used throughout Scripture, and for the first time in Proverbs, designates a roof or a top, something that covers the top of a structure. This phrase “the corner of a roof” depicts a meager and inadequate place to live, on top of the roof in only one of its corners. Linked with vs. 19, where roof is replaced by desert, and the other “better than” proverbs comparing the contentious wife to a leaky roof, (Prov 19:13; 27:15), this proverb envisions being exposed to all kinds of weather in this living condition. Yet, it is better to live there than the alternative to come in the second half of this verse.
Vs. 19 depicts the meagerness differently as “in a desert land,” which is BE MIDBAR ERETS. Also seen for the first time in Proverbs is MIDBAR, מִדְבָּר that means, “an open area of land which is sparsely populated and is generally dry in climate.” So it comes to mean, “a wilderness or desert.” It escalates “to dwell on the corner of a roof” to the solitariness, discomfort, danger, and privation of living “in a desert land,” an uncivilized land where one can barely eke out an existence.
Both verses make it clear that it is better to live alone in a secluded and dangerous area than to live with the type of woman we are about to see; one of contention and anger.
In the Hebrew both verses begin the comparison with “than a woman of,” which is the Preposition MIN with the Noun ISHSHAH that can mean, “a woman or a wife;” here it is “wife.”
Then they both give a description of this wife, saying she is “contentious,” which is the Noun MIDHYANIYM, מִדְיָנִים in vs. 9, a masculine plural noun referring to disputes or contentions. It is the plural of MADHON, מָדוֹן that is used in vs. 19 that has the same usage.
MADHON means, “dispute, contention or strife.” It is used three times in Proverbs to describe the contentious wife including Prov21:19; 25:24; 27:15. MADHON is said to be one given over to strife. This is what we would call a nag. It is someone who is easily angered and consistently complains about their situation. It is a picture of one who picks a fight. It is someone who is quarrelsome and argumentative by nature where the outcome in every case is misery in the home and misery for the man.
MIDHYANIYM is used only in Proverbs and refers to the contentious person who consistently brings quarrels and disputes, Prov 18:18; 19:13.
Prov 19:13, “A foolish son is destruction to his father, and the contentions of a wife are a constant dripping.”
Notice that contention is the opposite of being content. This is a woman who is not content with her situation in life and therefore causes strife and quarrels amongst others so that they too are miserable as she is.
No creature is more lovely than a woman who exhibits the precious graces of the Spirit of God and is content with God’s plan for her life.
Phil 4:11-13, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 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. 13I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
But a woman who lacks thoughtfulness, kindliness and love seems almost to be a misnomer. A contentious and angry woman, no matter how physically attractive she may be, is disagreeable beyond all words, and can by her tongue and her wretched ways produce untold misery. Therefore, where there is an argumentative woman who seeks to rule and will not be content unless she has things her own way, the home will be very unpleasant – like the constant dripping of a leaking roof.
Prov 27:15-16, “A constant dripping on a day of steady rain and a contentious woman are alike; 16He who would restrain her restrains the wind, and grasps oil with his right hand.”
Next we have a variation in our two passages. Vs. 9 states, “in a house shared with,” and vs. 19 states, “and vexing.”
Vs. 9 reads, BAYITH CHEBER (chever), for “a house of association,” that is “a shared house.” CHEBER has another meaning of a “spell or enchantment” of witchcraft or Pagan worship. Prov 21:9; 24:24; Hosea 6:9 use CHEBER for association, while the other four occurrences, Deut 18:11, Psa 58:5; Isa 47:9, 12 use spell or enchantment. Therefore, we see that this word has the meaning of joining together, but in an evil practice.
In comparison, vs. 19 reads, “and vexing,” which is the Conjunction WA with the Noun KA’AS, כַּעַס that means, “anger, vexation or grief,” cf. Prov 12:15; 17:25; 27:3. It describes the contentious wife who is filled with anger and causes grief to her husband. Vex or vexing means, “to make somebody slightly annoyed or upset, especially over a relatively unimportant matter, or to cause somebody anxiety or distress by provoking irritability or anxiety.” In other words she, “makes a mountain out of a mole hill.” Since “contentious” denotes to stir up conflicts with others, KA’AS here refers to the provocation she incites in her husband, Prov 17:25a, not her own irritation, Prov 12:16a.
So combined, vs. 9 and 19 tell us, “It is better to live by yourself in some secluded area, than to live in an tumultuous house with a wife who is contentious, (quarrels and disputes), and makes you annoyed and upset over relatively unimportant matters, causing you anxiety and distress.”
A woman who lacks a compatible personality may drive her husband away; out of the house, town, etc. A contentious wife destroys the peace of the household, so that the goal becomes to get away or escape from her presence.
Like the verses that commend a peaceful but simple meal, over a feast accompanied by strife and hatred, Prov 15:17; 17:1, these proverbs commend choosing a wife based on her personality.
Prov 17:1, “Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it, than a house full of feasting with strife.”
This implies the positive spiritual condition of peace and quiet that comes with contentment.
These proverbs also indirectly admonish the wife to submit to wisdom and caution her against pride; for when there is pride, there is strife, Prov13:10a, “Through insolence comes nothing but strife.”
“God’s plan for the wife is to be an encouragement and help to her husband. Men need attention, affection, adoration, and admiration. A wise wife will endeavor to daily meet these needs of her husband. Some of the cockiest men that I have ever met are very insecure men. Behind men that have accomplished great things or have become very successful are usually very supportive, loving, and caring wives. Yet, if the wife becomes embittered, cold, unfeeling, uncaring, or unfaithful, she creates distress and distractions for her husband. Her bitterness or coldness may be caused by sin that has gripped her heart or by her husband that has been acting like a jerk. When husbands are harsh, impatient, and selfish, they create emotional barriers with their spouses. Like rose petals that have been damaged by rough treatment, the tender emotions of a wife can be bruised or scarred. If you have bruised your wife physically or emotionally, then seek her forgiveness. Give her time to emotionally heal. In most cases, it takes time for her spirit to trust you and open back up to you.” (Mattoon’s Treasures from Proverbs)
A gracious woman is a woman of appreciation and a woman of affection. She knows how to appreciate others and she is very comfortable showing affection. Therefore, wives are to be women of virtue and great contentment, not argumentative and quarrelsome, but loving and peacemakers as exhorted to be in Prov 11:16, 22; 12:4; 18:22; 19:14, see also Col 3:18; Eph 5:22-24, 32-33; 1 Peter 3:1-6.
Prov 11:16a, “A gracious woman attains honor.”
Prov 12:4a, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband.”
Col 3:18, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”
Eph 5:22-24, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.”
Eph 5:32-33, “This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.”
1 Peter 3:1-6, “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. 3Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; 6just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.”
Vs. 10-18: Triumph of the righteous over the wicked.
Prov 21:10, “The soul of the wicked desires evil; his neighbor finds no favor in his eyes.”
This verse tells us of the rejection by society of the wicked person.
“The soul of the wicked” is NEPHESH RASHA.
“Desires evil” is the intensive active Piel Perfect of AWAH with the noun RA.
In other words, the inner most being of the wicked unbeliever or apostate believer, absolutely desires to do evil. The wicked always desire what is evil because of their wickedness, Mat 12:33-35. They want to do it and therefore, choose to do it. As a result of the wicked person performing evil speech and deeds, “his neighbor finds no favor in his eyes.” which is REA LO CHANNAN BE AYIN.
LO CHANNAN means, “he will not be treated with compassion” uses the causative passive Hophal Imperfect of CHANNAN that means, “to be gracious, to show favor or to have compassion.” Therefore, the friends and neighbors of the wicked are caused to not be gracious, show favor or have compassion for the wicked person. As a result he is served a just sentence for his crimes.
The reason they are caused not to have compassion for the wicked is because the wicked have done hurtful things to their friends and neighbors over and over again, Prov 1:11-14; 4:16-17. They have gone against the covenantal requirement to love their neighbor, Lev 19:18, 33f; Prov 3:29, and they despise those around them, Prov 11:12; 14:21, seeing them only as tools by which to accomplish their own ends, Prov 12:26. It is therefore useless to seek or hope for mercy, wise counsel or help from such a person.
The friends and neighbors had compassion for them at one time and did show grace, but because of the repetition of evil and crimes perpetrated against them by the wicked person, they finally have to give up and let God’s judgment deal with them, in the hopes that the wicked will change his ways. In fact, this is the loving thing to do for the unrepentant person.
Prov 21:11, “When the scoffer is punished, the naive becomes wise; but when the wise is instructed, he receives knowledge.”
Similar to Prov 19:25, “Strike a scoffer and the naive may become shrewd, but reprove one who has understanding and he will gain knowledge.”
Here we see the wicked person receiving punishment and others learning from it.
“When the scoffer is punished” is BE LUTS ANASH. ANSAH is in the Qal Infinitive for ongoing action and means, “to impose a fine or punish,” Ex 21:22; Deut 22:18; 2 Chron 26:3. This is learning the hard way, through discipline and punishment.
The others that learn from the wicked scoffer’s fine or punishment is the “naïve” PETHIY, who, as a result, “becomes wise,” which is the Qal Imperfect of CHAKAM. This is learning the easy way, by the negative example of others.
The contrast in the second half also speaks about learning the easy way, but this time through the positive instruction of the wise. It begins with the contrasting conjunction WA and the preposition BE for “But when.” Next we have “the wise,” which is CHAKAM once again, and “is instructed” that is the causative active Hiphil Infinitive of SAKAL that means to cause to, “act with insight, be prudent, act prudently, consider, ponder, or understand.” So it literally says, “is cause to understand” which means he was taught a lesson and learned from it. That is why it is translated “instructed.” Finally we have, “he receives knowledge,” which is the active Qal Imperfect of the verb LAQACH, that means, “to take, grasp or seize,” with the noun DA’ATH that means, “knowledge, skill or perception.” So rather than passively receiving, this wise person will take, grasp or seize knowledge. This is learning the easy way. Learning from those with more wisdom and experience than you have, and learning from your own faults and the faults of others, as noted here.
- As we have noted previously, reproving the incorrigible mocker is folly, Prov 9:6-7; 14:16; 15:12. Even beating him is worthless. But apparently, imposing a monetary penalty on him has the value of educating the receptive naive.
- By means of fining the scoffer, he learns the connection between crime and punishment, Prov 19:25, a connection he apparently does not learn through physical punishment.
- Having entered the ranks of the wise by learning from the negative example of others, he now pays attention to the wise and accepts with approval the connection between virtue and its rewards.
- As they say, money talks….
Prov 21:12, “The righteous one considers the house of the wicked, turning the wicked to ruin.”
Here we see, “justice served!”
“The righteous one,” TSEDDIQ, “considers,” the causative active Hiphil Participle of SAKAL, “the house of,” LE BAYITH, “the wicked,” RASHA. Some think the “righteous one” is referring to God and therefore His righteous judgment, but the identity is unclear. Every other occurrence of TSEDDIQ in Proverbs refers to a human being and most likely does here too.
This means that the righteous, (the believer walking under experiential sanctification by being filled with the Holy Spirit and applying Bible doctrine from their soul), are caused to understand what the wicked person, (an unbeliever or reversionistic believer living inside of Satan’s cosmic system, who causes verbal, physical or monetary harm to others), is all about. They know how they think and operate. They can see them coming from a mile away, and as a result can steer clear of them or if they are sitting in judgment over them (as a judge or jury in a court of law), they enact justice towards them.
What does this believer with discernment from Bible Doctrine in their souls do regarding the wicked? They, “turn the wicked to ruin,” which is the intensive causative Piel participle of SALAPH that means, “to overthrow, twist, distort, pervert, subvert or ruin.” It describes hindering or subverting the “wicked,” RASHA, and foolish in their ways, Prov 13:6; 19:3; 22:12. The overturning here is “to ruin,” LE RA, that literally means, “bad or evil.” It means that the evil the wicked desired to perpetrate on others is turned back around onto them, as they are found guilty or culpable in a court of law, and have to pay a fine or receive a punishment. So this proverb means that those serving justice righteously, as a judge or jury, will apportion the appropriate sentence on the wicked criminal. In addition, the evil the wicked intended to do to others will be done to them, as they are fined or sentenced to prison. It is a negative reap what you sow principle.
Prov 21:13, “He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be answered.”
Do not pervert justice, or justice will be perverted towards you.
Continuing in the court of law scenario, this proverb warns not to subvert justice by only listening to the rich and wealthy, while not giving attention to the offended poor or weak of the society.
“He who shuts his ear,” is the Qal active participle of ATAM that means, “to stop up or close,” and the noun OZEN for “ear.” It means to “turn a deaf ear,” or to not listen to the complaint of the poor person.
“When the heart is hard, the ear is deaf,” 1 Sam 25:10f; cf. Prov 3:27f.; 18:23; 24:11-12; Job 22:7; 29:14-16; 31:16-17. (Waltke, NIC)
“To the cry of the poor,” is the preposition MIN, with the nouns ZE’AQAH and DAL. ZE’AQAH, זְעָקָה means, “outcry, lamentation or a cry of distress or sorrow.” Here it is used for the outcry or complaint of the poor or weak of society who have been wrongly offended by someone. It refers to their “loud and agonized crying out in acute distress, calling for help and seeking deliverance with this emotion-laden utterance,” (TDOT).
Therefore, this verse specifies the wicked’s lack of righteousness, justice and mercy by describing him as one who gives preferential treatment to the rich over the poor, implying his cruelty and/or insensibility to justice regarding the poor. So this cry of distress serves as an accusation or appeal to be made in a court of law, just as someone who is threatened or has been assaulted calls with utmost urgency for assistance.
The warning here is that if someone shuts out the poor or weak from presenting a complaint of offense that was perpetrated against them in a court of law, the one who shuts them out “will also cry himself and not be answered.”
“Will also cry himself,” is GAM, “and or also,” HU, “he, himself,” with the Qal Imperfect of QARA that means, “to call or proclaim.” This means that their will come a time when the one who shut out the poor from entering their complaint, will too one day have a complaint themselves that they desire to be entered into the court of law. And because of their past intolerance, their complaint will not be entered.
“And not be answered,” is LO ANAH. It means that those who shut out others will themselves be shut out from entering their complaint in a court of law. Because they did not serve justice for others, justice will not be served for them.
Those who refuse to help those in need, will not be helped, and will even find trouble for their unwillingness to help others, Prov 11:26; 28:27.
This is a picture of our prayers to God and our attitude towards the poor or weak of society. If we do not join in the prayers of the poor and co-present their prayers and supplications to the Lord because of the arrogance in our souls, then when we go to pray to the Lord, our prayers will in like kind be turned away. That is, God will not hear and answer our prayers, because we are out of fellowship with Him having an offense on our souls because we put down or shut out the poor in our hearts, Prov 1:28.
Prov 1:28, “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but they shall not find me.”
“The merciful obtain mercy, (Prov 3:3f; 19:17; Matt. 5:7; Luke 6:38), but the callous will not be pitied (cf. Psa 109:6-20, Matt. 18:23-35; 25:31-46; James 2:13),” (Waltke, NIC)
James 2:13, “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”
Prov 21:14, “A gift in secret subdues anger, and a bribe in the bosom, strong wrath.”
Here we are told to calm down, bring peace to a situation at all costs!
“A gift,” MATTAN, cf Prov 18:16; 19:6, “in secret,” BE SETHER, “subdues” the Qal Imperfect of KAPHAH that is only used here in O.T. and means, “to avert or pacify. “ It refers to the calming or reconciling of an attitude of “anger,” (APH that means face, nose or anger), toward someone. This means pacification via subjugation.
The parallel to this is “and a bribe in the bosom, strong wrath.”
“Bribe” is the noun SHOCHAD that means, “a gift, present or bribe.” It refers to what is given in a situation to influence persons to act or think in a certain way they would not normally. It was often given to pervert justice and to blind the judgment of even good persons, Ex 23:8; Deut 16:19.
“In the bosom,” is BE CHEQ, that means, “in the lap or fold,” that refers to the folds or pockets in a garment. These were located above the belt and hands where objects could be concealed there. So it is the breast pouch.
“Strong wrath,” is AZ CHEMAH, a noun meaning wrath, heat, rage or figuratively anger, hot displeasure, indignation or great fury.”
At first blush, this proverb appears to commend bribery. Yet, we know from the Torah that bribing officials is prohibited, as the Lord through Moses, commands, “You shall take no gift: for the gift blinds the wise, and perverts the words of the righteous,” Ex 23:8.
Deut 16:18-19, “You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. 19You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous.”
Nevertheless, since gifts win friends, Prov 18:16; 19:6, they can resolve conflicts or even calm rage. Their secrecy here suggests that these are bribes, the usual meaning of SHOCHAD, but since conflict is also condemned throughout Proverbs, this verse advocates using one’s property or abilities to avoid conflict, not bribes that cause justice to miscarry, cf. Prov 17:23; 29:4. Therefore, this verse tells us that it is better to stop a quarrel at any cost, than to let opponents become entrenched in their positions, cf. Prov 17:14; Luke 12:58; Rom 12:18.
Prov 17:14, “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.”
Luke 12:58, “For while you are going with your opponent to appear before the magistrate, on your way there make an effort to settle with him, so that he may not drag you before the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison.”
The proverb does not commend bribery but, rather, good sense. Pacifying the angry person is often one’s first duty, and the price of peace is much smaller than the cost of anger and constant strife.
“Often, logical arguments are not half as effective in winning the day as some token of esteem or appreciation. Consider the person who has quarreled with his or her spouse and decides to give up arguing about who was right and who was wrong in favor of offering a gift of appreciation. At times this strategy wins the peace and effects more harmony than acting like a collegiate debater. Gifts, like all gain from this world, can carry with them great danger when they threaten to rearrange a person’s general scale of values and purposes for doing things. But they are highly acceptable when they are used in a responsible way and given without any implied or explicit demand for a favor in return. They even are commended when used to cool down the wrath of an enemy, a foe or a relative who may be temporarily out of control. These gifts could avoid great wrath, yet they would also be called bribes in Scripture.” (Hard Sayings of the Bible.)
Prov 21:15, “The execution of justice is joy for the righteous, but is terror to the workers of iniquity.”
Justice brings joy to the righteous and destruction to the wicked!
“The execution of justice,” is the Qal Infinitive of ASAH, “to do or make,” with the Noun MISHPAT.
“Is joy for the righteous,” is SIMCHAH LE TSADDIQ, where SIMCHAH denotes the feeling and display of joy, and often expresses exceeding joy or jubilation.
“But is terror,” WA MECHITTAH meaning, “terror, ruin or destruction,” “to the workers,” the Qal Active Participle of LE PA’AL that means, “to make practice or commit,” “of iniquity,” AWEN that means, “trouble, sorrow, wickedness, idolatry, iniquity, evil.”
The righteous rejoice when they see justice being served and upheld, but the wicked criminal, who uses violence and deception against society’s weaker members, sees it as terror as he is found guilty and sentenced or condemned when the finished process of justice throws them into the destruction that they themselves had done. The innocent have nothing to fear and everything to gain from justice, whereas the guilty can only fear the punishment, cf. Prov 28:1, which will surely overtake them when justice is zealously pursued, cf. Prov 10:24; 11:23.
“There may also be a subtle word here to judges. If a judge is known as honest and just, the emotional state of those before him may point toward their innocence or guilt (cf. Prov 21:29).” (Complete Biblical Library Commentary)
Prov 21:16, “A man who wanders from the way of understanding will rest in the assembly of the dead.”
A warning to not stray from your relationship with God.
“A man who wanders,” is ADAM with the Qal Active Participle of TA’AH that means, “to wander or go astray.” The verb has the basic idea of someone wandering, being lost or going astray from known ways. It often implies that a person is lost or moving about aimlessly. Even though this is a warning against rebellion, it really emphasizes the casual or careless choices we make that by insensible degrees lead us away from the path of experiential sanctification / righteousness. Cf. Prov 2:18f; 9:18; 16:17.
Prov 16:17, “The highway of the upright is to depart from evil; he who watches his way preserves his life.”
The spiritual application is easy: just as a person may go off a path and get lost, so may a believer move away from God’s righteous path and become lost spiritually, which if continued, results in reversionism and apostasy.
Here this believer is lost “from the way,” MIN DEREK, “of understanding,” SAKAL once again. SAKAL means, “to have the know-how to succeed in an endeavor, (i.e., the spiritual life), and to obtain a desired result, (i.e., achieve spiritual adulthood in the glorification of God).” It means to have good sense, (the application of Bible doctrine that creates Divine norms and standards in your soul) for living, cf. Deut 32:29.
SAKAL is in the causative active Hiphil Infinitive Absolute which indicates that this believer was caused with certainty to not apply Bible Doctrine in his life. The cause is negative volition towards God and His Word, both on the intake and application. Therefore, this believer has wandered from the application of Bible Doctrine in their soul that would have kept them walking in God’s plan for their life under experiential sanctification.
Deut 32:29, “Would that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would discern their future!”
To wander from the application of Bible doctrine in your life is not only foolish, but shameful, Prov 10:5. As J. Vernon McGee notes, “In our contemporary society the entertainer has been glorified, and as a result the great moral principles of life have been turned upside down. At one time, even in the court of a king, a jester, an entertainer, was called a fool.” (Thru The Bible.)
Therefore, with the lack of the application of Bible doctrine from the soul in the faith-rest life, it leads to reversionism and apostasy that calls for God’s discipline within their life, as the second half of this verse indicates, “will rest in the assembly of the dead,” which indicates the third and final stage of Divine discipline called the Sin Unto Death, SUD.
“He will rest” is the Qal Imperfect of NUACH that we noted in Prov 14:33, “Wisdom rests in the heart of one who has understanding, but in the bosom of fools it is made known.”
There we noted how wisdom, (the application of Bible Doctrine) rests or is stored in the heart of those who have “understanding,” (there understanding is the Hebrew word BIN that means to perceive Bible Doctrine and store it in the soul). Here we see the one who does not receive and/or apply Bible doctrine. Therefore, they do not know how to live the spiritual life unto God, and in turn receive discipline because of the sin and folly they are living under. This discipline will result in resting “in the assembly of the dead,” BE QAHAL REPHA’IM.
2 Peter 2:21, “For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them.” As every motion has an end, so every journey has a goal, cf. Prov 10:17; 11:19; 12:28; 13:13, 14; 14:12; 16:25, 27; 15:24; 19:16; 22:4.
Prov 10:17, “He is on the path of life who heeds instruction, but he who forsakes reproof goes astray.”
Prov 11:19, “He who is steadfast in righteousness will attain to life, and he who pursues evil will bring about his own death.”
Therefore, the apostate, who must roam through life at his own will, is only hastening to lose his mobility, (will rest): his independence in the living assembly, (the body of Christ), and his life.
Prov 21:17, “He who loves pleasure will become a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not become rich.”
In dramatic irony, the person who chases after the pleasures of life, comes only to lack what he desired and in addition, the necessities of life, Prov 10:22; cf. Luke 6:24; 16:25.
Luke 6:24-25, “But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. 25Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.”
Prov 10:22, “It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it.”
“He who loves”, is the Qal Active Participle of AHAB.
“Pleasure” is the noun SIMCHAH that means, “joy, gladness or rejoicing.”
“A poor man” is MACHSOR ISH for, “a man of want or lack.”
1 John 2:15, “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
In the correlating second half we have the Qal Active Participle of AHAB again for, “he who loves.”
Then the topic of “pleasure” (i.e., the things of the world we love to rejoice in), is specified as “wine,” YAYIN and “oil,” SHEMEN.
Oil here represents sexual lusts and pleasure, coupled with deceptive speech, as we noted SHEMEN in Prov 5:3 regarding the adulteress woman in its first and only other use in Proverbs thus far.
Prov 5:3, “For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and smoother than oil is her speech.”
Then we see that if we love the things of this world more than we love the Lord, we “will not become rich,” which is the negative particle LO with the causative Hiphil Imperfect of ASHAR that means, “to be or become rich.”
Now, to have and use wine and olive oil is not a bad thing or sin, let us not get all legalistic here. But, to love these things, which represent the things of this world, more than you love the Lord, which means to be occupied with, serve and worship, is bad and is sin.
Prov 21:20, “There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man swallows it up,” cf. Prov 27:9. It is our preoccupation with these things that leads to our over indulgence of them, which becomes sin and leads to our down fall.
2 Tim 3:1-4, “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”
Therefore, this proverb warns us against the “love of pleasure,” because it leads to perpetual loss in the physical and spiritual life on the way to the grave. Combined with vs. 16 this is similar to what Paul stated in 1 Tim 5:6, “But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives.”
We must always keep in mind that life is a marathon, not a sprint. True abundant life is only enjoyed by the upright that set the Lord continually before them.
Prov 21:18, “The wicked is a ransom for the righteous, and the treacherous is in the place of the upright.”
This verse asserts once again that the righteous triumph over the wicked. Justice demands the punishment of the guilty, in order that the guiltless may be delivered.
“The wicked man,” RASHA, “is a ransom,” KOPHER (a bribe, ransom or redemption), “for the righteous,” LE TSADDIQ.
KOPHER translated “ransom” means, “one thing that stands in the place for another.” The first half of this verse tells us that the redemption of the righteous is made possible at the expense of the wicked. In other words, when the wicked are judged rightly in a court of law, (and/or fall under the Divine discipline of the Lord), they will pay for their crimes, and the righteous will be vindicated and free to live in peace and harmony, cf. Prov 20:22; Deut 32:35; Rom 12:19; Heb 10:30. In addition, the wicked receive their just punishment and the righteous are spared the evils that could have been perpetrated on them by the wicked.
The correlating second half continues with, “and the treacherous,” BAGAD, which means, “to act deceitfully, treacherously or faithlessly.” It conveys the concept of a person acting in an unstable or unfaithful manner with reference to an existing established regulation (e.g., a contract, covenant or marital commitment). It gives the sense that he has dishonored or intends to dishonor an agreement (e.g., adultery). This deception can be in their speech or actions, or both. In either case, he is going against God’s Word, which is sin. So the deceitful criminal is in view.
Correlating to “ransom” in the first half, we now have TACHATH for “is in the place of,” that means, “beneath or instead of.” It often means, “to take the place of” someone else as it does here. God’s justice requires that the punishment fit the crime. Therefore, He states the “eye for an eye” principle, where TACHATH is translated as “for,” which also included capital punishment for murder, or “a life for life,” Ex 21:23-25.
The person this criminal is taking the place of is “the upright,” YASHAR, which is the believer walking under Experiential Sanctification.
So we see that the treacherous wicked unbeliever or reversionistic believer receives discipline so that the righteous man, (i.e., the unbeliever operating under Divine establishment principles or the believer walking Experientially Sanctified), can live freely.
Prov 11:8, “The righteous is delivered from trouble, but the wicked takes his place.”
Rashi, one of the greatest rabbinic commentators, related this to the reversal of Haman’s fortune who intended to kill the innocent Mordecai, yet Haman was hung in his place, Esther 7:10.
Therefore, instead of the pleasures the reversionist sought at the expense of others, he finds death, vs. 16, poverty, vs. 17, and the miseries he intended to inflict upon others to gratify his lust, vs. 18.
Nevertheless, in regard to our Positional Sanctification, when grace was revealed through Jesus Christ the Righteous One at the Cross of Calvary, He became a ransom for the wicked and the treacherous; you and I! Love gave the guiltless One to die that the guilty might be justified. And as a result, all who believe upon Him receive and stand eternally free and justified.
Vs. 20-29: The lasting gratification and establishment of the righteous and the demise of the wicked.
Prov 21:20, “There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man swallows it up.”
The Enduring Prosperity of the Righteous, Part 1.
This verse is a follow up to vs. 17, and contrasts the wise person’s continual abundance, Prov 3:16; 8:18, 21; 10:4; 12:11; 24:4; 28:19, with the fool’s instant gratification that leads to want.
“There is precious treasure and oil” is the passive Niphal Participle of the Verb CHAMAD that means, “something desired or something one takes pleasure in.” It is joined to “treasure and oil” which are the Nouns OTSAR and SHEMEN once again for, “a treasury, storehouse or supplies,” and “olive oil.” It indicates that these things have been saved up over time, which becomes a blessing to the owner in the future.
The location of this precious treasure is “the dwelling of the wise,” BE NAWEH CHAKAM. NAWEH is typically translated as, “habitation, dwelling, abode, or home” and for animals, “pasture” that connotes provision, security and peace. It is the place where the “wise” individual (the one filled with Bible doctrine in their soul) lives.
The contrast tells us, “but the foolish man” which is the Noun KESIL meaning, “stupid or foolish,” with the Noun ADAM, “swallows it up” which is BALA that we noted in Prov 1:12 and 19:28 that means, “to swallow, devour or engulf.” Here BALA is in intensive active Piel Imperfect, for the gluttonous action of devouring everything they have today and not saving for tomorrow.
- The wise man plans and saves for the future, but the foolish person squanders what he has.
- The wise know how to set priorities and work diligently to accomplish their goals. As a result, they will find their work is blessed by God.
- Yet, the foolish person refuses to think ahead or to accept wise counsel concerning the consequences of his actions and wastes what he has, Prov 14:16; 21:17; 22:3; 23:19ff; 27:12.
Prov 27:12, “A prudent man sees evil and hides himself, the naive proceed and pay the penalty.”
McKane notes that “the fool lets money run through his fingers and does not use it to create a material environment for gracious living.”
In our spiritual analogy, the wise continue to take in God’s Word on a consistent basis, thereby enlarging the storage of Bible doctrine in their soul for future application. Yet, the foolish believer does not and squanders his opportunity to store up doctrine in his soul as the result of laziness in the spiritual life and placing worldly things as more important and higher priority in his life.
Just like food, once it is gulped down, it is gone, so is Bible doctrine taught by your Pastor teacher. Once it is taught, if you are not present to learn it, it is gone, and you do not store it up in your soul for future application. As a result, when the time comes for application, you will be left wanting, as well as losing out on future blessings and rewards in time and eternity.
Prov 21:21, “He who pursues righteousness and loyalty finds life, righteousness and honor.”
The Enduring Prosperity of the Righteous, Part 2.
This tells us that the goals we pursue in this life determine how this life will turn out for us, cf. Prov 11:19; 12:28.
“He who pursues righteousness and loyalty” is coupled with the “wise man” in vs. 20 and 22. Wisdom is characterized as right thinking, not brains as such.
“He who pursues,” is the Qal Active Participle of RADAPH that means here “to follow or pursue.” The thing this man is chasing after is “righteousness,” TSEDAQAH, “and loyalty,” WA CHESED, that means, “grace, mercy, kindness, loyalty, steadfast love, or loving kindness, (AGAPE Love).” These are the things the believer who is consistently walking experientially sanctified purses. He is not chasing after the things of this world, i.e., Satan’s cosmic system. He instead is pursing the intake of Bible doctrine so that he can apply that doctrine in service to God and man, to God’s glory.
As a result of pursuing the things of God, the believer walking inside the plan of God for their lives “will find” which is the Qal Imperfect of MATSA, “life,” CHAYYIM, “righteousness,” TSEDAQAH, “and honor,” WA KABOD that means, “glory, honor or wealth,” here it is honor.
So the one who pursues the righteousness of God attains the status of invisible hero and will find the “righteousness” of God in their lives, (i.e. have the Christ-like nature), along with “life,” (i.e., have an impact inside the Angelic Conflict as an invisible hero who has Personal, Historical, International, Angelic, and Heritage impact), and “honor,” (i.e., garner blessings from God for both time and eternity, 1 Cor 3:10-15; Rev 2-3.)
Prov 22:4, “The reward of humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, honor and life.”
God has great pleasure in those who pursue Him and He loves to bless those that honor His Word and yield obedience to His truth. His Word was not given to us to be a source of intellectual enjoyment alone, though it is that; His Word was given to us so that we could demonstrate in our lives, as it was fully demonstrated in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, cf. Mat 5:6; 10:41-42; Luke 6:38; Heb 6:10.
Heb 6:10, “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.”
“The empty glory of this world and the praise of worldly people are worth little after all. But to be honored by God, and by those who love Him, abides forever.” (H.A. Ironside Expository Commentary – Proverbs.)
Prov 21:22, “A wise man scales the city of the mighty, and brings down the stronghold in which they trust.”
The Triumph of the Righteous, Part 1.
“A wise man” is CHAKAM once again.
“Scales” is the Qal Perfect of the Verb ALAH that means, “to go up, to ascend, to mount, to climb,”
“The city of” is the Noun IYR meaning, “a city or town.”
“The mighty” is the Noun GIBBOR that means, “valiant, powerful or warrior.”
This is the attack.
“And brings down,” is the causative active Hiphil Imperfect of the Verb YARAD, that means, “to go down or descend.”
“The stronghold,” in parallel to the “city of the mighty” is OZ that plainly means, “strength or power.”
This is the victory.
This passage tells us that the wise man causes the fortified city to be overthrown.
Next, we note the value people place upon the mighty and strong city with the phrase, “in which they trust,” which is the Noun MIBTACH that means, “to trust or have confidence in something.” Here it refers to the city in which one trusts and conveys an attitude of confidence in that city. It is describing people who do not trust in God, but trust in their government or military to protect and provide for them. Therefore, the fortified city represents Satan and his cosmic system that most men place their trust in rather than God.
As you know, we must trust in God to provide for our every need, safety and security. Sometimes He provides these things through the government and military, but the government and military should never be a substitute for our faith in the Provider, God.
This passage tells us that wisdom is superior to brute force. A man may be able to build a seemingly impregnable fortress, but there will come a day when a smart man will figure out how to invade and defeat it.
“The ancient city of Babylon is a classic example. Belshazzar sat inside the walls of Babylon thinking he was perfectly safe. In fact, there was an inner wall around his palace. He was certain the walls of Babylon could never be penetrated, and, of course, guards were stationed all along the walls. But the general in the camp of the enemy used his wisdom and figured a way to get into Babylon. A branch of the Euphrates River went through the city, more or less like a canal. He diverted the water back into the mainstream of the river, then he was able to march his army on the riverbed under the wall where the river had flowed. The Medo-Persian army spread into the city, and the city was taken before the Babylonians knew what was happening.” (Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee.)
In a similar way, the Greeks defeated the impenetrable city of Troy by the Trojan horse gift that was filled with Greek soldiers. In the cover of night, they exited the horse and opened the city’s gate from inside allowing the Greeks to enter and conquer the city.
“Napoleon made the statement that God is always on the side of the bigger battalions. He was wrong. He should have won at Waterloo. He was a very brilliant general, but he was not quite smart enough. He had the ability to move artillery speedily, but he got bogged down in the mud. It was old General Mud that really stopped Napoleon as he went toward Warsaw. The cavalry stumbled over the artillery that was stuck in the mud. This proverb is saying that men may depend upon riches or upon brute force, but neither will be a good enough protection.” (Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee.)
Solomon also noted in Eccl 9:13-16, “Also this I came to see as wisdom under the sun, and it impressed me. 14There was a small city with few men in it and a great king came to it, surrounded it, and constructed large siege works against it. 15But there was found in it a poor wise man and he delivered the city by his wisdom. Yet no one remembered that poor man. 16So I said, “Wisdom is better than strength.” But the wisdom of the poor man is despised and his words are not heeded.”
Therefore, this proverb escalates the material gain of the wise man in vs. 20, through spiritual virtue in vs. 21, to a climactic assertion that nothing and no one can stop your triumph over evil and wicked men. The wisdom of God’s Word resident within your soul is far superior to the brute force of Satan and his cosmic system. God’s Word will allow you to overcome the strength of any situation, disaster or person that comes against you in life.
Psa 18:29, “For by You I can run upon a troop; and by my God I can leap over a wall.”
Prov 14:26, “In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, and his children will have refuge.”
Phil 4:13, “You can do all things through Him who strengthens you.”
“The proverb represents the final superiority of spiritual virtue over vices such as intimidation, censure, systematic spreading of lies, murder (cf. 2 Cor 10:4) and trusting in one’s own might (3:7; 16:32; 24:5; Eccl. 9:16). In spite of insurmountable odds, including famine, nakedness, sword (Rom. 8:35) and spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places (Eph. 6:12), Christ built his Church through saints who wear God’s armor (Isa. 59:17; Eph. 6:10-18).” (Waltke, New International Commentary)
Prov 21:23, “He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles.”
The Triumph of the Righteous, Part 2.
Having placed our trust in God and His Word that gives us wisdom to be overcomers in this life, here we see that wisdom applied toward our speech guards our souls from sin and evil.
“He who guards” is the Qal Active Participle Verb SHAMAR, once again, that means, “to guard or keep watch over,” with the underlying idea of “exercising great care.”
“His mouth and his tongue,” is the emphatic double emphasis for our speech with PEH WA LASHON.
In the reciprocating parallel, we have “guards,” SHAMAR, “his soul,” NEPHESH, “from troubles,” the plural of MIN TSARAH that means, “distresses or afflictions.”
Therefore, Bible doctrine in the soul applied toward your speech will protect your soul from future problems and difficulties. This means that by means of Bible doctrine in your soul, you have the understanding necessary to reflect upon a situation rather than give a quick response. It means you do not speak out of frustration or anger. And at times, the right thing to say is to say nothing at all which takes great self-control.
In vs. 22, we noted the great offense the Word of God provides for us against evil. Here we see the great defense it provides for us, as the Word of God gives us the “full armor of God,” Eph 6:10-17.
These passages set forth advantages for the wise / righteous, (the believer walking under experiential sanctification). This believer will find, among other things, abundant logistical grace blessings, vs 20a, a life of impact inside the Angelic Conflict, vs 21b, victory over evil and the wicked, vs. 22, and protection for his soul, vs. 23. He will come to possess the things that the wicked crave.
Next we have several verses on the demise of the wicked. This last sub-unit of Chapter 21 comes to a conclusion with a list of the types of wicked men that matches the series of wicked types that began back in Chapter 20 and began this chapter in vs. 4-7, including:
- The Proud, Prov 20:5; 21:4, 24.
- The Sluggard, Prov 20:4; 21:25
- The Liar, Prov 20:6, 14, 17; 21:2, 6, 28.
- The Brazen Wicked Man, Prov 20:3, 6; 21:10, 29.
These four wicked types, the arrogant and sluggard, vs. 24-26, and the liar and brazen wicked, vs. 28-29, bracket the hypocritical worshipper in vs. 27, cf. Prov 20:25.
We are first given a description of the wicked fool, known as, “The Proud, The Haughty and The Scoffer.” This is the Bible’s version of “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.”
Prov 21:24, ““Proud,” “Haughty,” ” Scoffer,” are his names, who acts with insolent pride.”
Our first description of the wicked fool is “Proud,” the Hebrew Adjective ZED זֵד that means, “proud, arrogant, to behave insolently, (showing an aggressive lack of respect in speech or behavior), or to be presumptuous, (behavior that is inconsiderate, disrespectful or overconfident).” It is used predominantly in the Psalms and is used for the first time here in Proverbs. It describes pride which expresses itself through the exaltation of one’s own authority and usually describes wickedness and opposition to the Lord. It tells us that pride is the spiritual source of this person’s antagonism against God and His people, i.e., the wise.
In all references, except Psa 19:13, it is used as a term for the godless and rebellious person, just as our verse lists it alongside “haughty and scoffer” as names for the one who acts with insolent pride. The basic idea is pride, a sense of self-importance, which often is exaggerated to include defiance and even rebelliousness. Because a person is proud he presumes too much in his favor, especially in the sense of authority.
David said in Psa 86:14, “O God, arrogant men have risen up against me, and a band of violent men have sought my life, and they have not set You before them.”
This reminds us of Satan’s arrogance in his prehistoric rebellion against God, in Isa 14:13-14; Ezek 28:15b-19.
The Complete Biblical Library Commentary notes, “Those who have this pride are listed parallel with those who “work wickedness” and “tempt God” (Mal. 3:15) and with all who do wickedly. As a result, they will be burned like stubble in the day of God’s judgment (Mal. 4:1). Such people often oppose those who are trying to obey God’s will (Jer. 43:2; Ps. 119:51, 69, 78, 122).”
Our second description of the wicked fool is “Haughty,” the Adjective YAHIYR יָהִיר that is used for the first time in Scripture and only used elsewhere in Hab 2:5.
Hab 2:5, “Furthermore, wine betrays the haughty man, so that he does not stay at home. He enlarges his appetite like Sheol, and he is like death, never satisfied. He also gathers to himself all nations and collects to himself all peoples.”
YAHIYR means, “proud or arrogant.” It is used to define a person who is insolent, prideful and narcissistically self-centered. In Hab 2:5 it describes the arrogant person, where the use of wine betrays him and puts on display his supercilious, haughty character, as one who is motivated by greed. This person’s confidence is not in the Lord who is in control of the destinies of all men, and is in direct contrast to the righteous who live by faith and trust in God continually. These men trust in themselves.
Our third description of the wicked fool is “Scoffer,” another form of pride which is the Noun LUTS that we noted in Prov 20:1, “Wine is a mocker, and those who become deceived by it are not wise.” LUTS means, “a boaster, scorner, mocker, or imitator.” It describes this person’s character as one who derides or boasts so as to express utter contempt for others, (i.e., God, His Word and those applying it), by making fun of them, belittling them, disparagingly mimicking them, lying about them, etc.
These three titles “are his names,” which is the Noun SHAME that means, “name” and carries the idea of a person’s standing, reputation or fame, whether good or bad. In this case it is a bad reputation carrying the idea of being “infamous” for his ridicule of others.
Next we are told who earns these titles; the one “who acts,” (ASAH – to make or do), “with insolent pride.”
“Insolent” is the Noun EVRAH that means, “wrath, outburst, excess, or anger.”
“Pride” is the Noun ZADON derived from the same root as ZED above that means, “presumptuousness.” It is used to describe insolence or presumption toward God or humans. It is primarily used in contexts which describe people whose pride causes them to oppose God and exalt themselves, cf. Prov 11:2. Therefore, EVRAH and ZADON, “the insolent and presumptuous person,” describes the wicked fool as one who disregards God, His revealed truth, and those who are apply it in their lives.
This proverb does not aim to define the mocker as much as it does to explain that his fury against God and humanity stems from his exaggerated opinion of his self-importance. Therefore, it speaks to those who have outbursts of prideful anger against God, either directly or indirectly, e.g., Satan, his fallen angels, fallen man, and apostate believers.
Therefore, we see that this wicked fool has not put on the Christ-like nature and instead has remained in his Satan-like nature, i.e., his Adamic nature, as he displays prideful, arrogant scoffing, in the rejection of God and His Word, stemming from his insolent pride.
In regard to the Angelic Conflict, as we noted in vs. 23-24 with its military imagery of both offensive and defensive weaponry, cf. Eph 6:10ff, all the terms applied to the mocker in this verse entail his aggressive pride which is indicative of our enemy. And as we noted, by our spiritual virtue we will overcome our enemy with prudent speech and behavior as we defend ourselves against him.
Prov 11:2, “When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom.”
Vs. 25 – 26
These next two verses are a continuation of thought. The first sentence, vs. 25, describes the wicked fool’s motivation and actions, and the second sentence, vs. 26, tells of the resultant consequences.
Prov 21:25, “The desire of the sluggard puts him to death, for his hands refuse to work;”
Prov 21:26, “All day long he is craving, while the righteous gives and does not hold back.”
“Desire” is the Noun TA’AWAH that means, “longing, eager desire, appetite, lust, or delight,” and speaks to the motivation of the “sluggard,” ATSEL, “idle or lazy.” It refers to aspirations rooted deeply within his personality. TA’AWAH links this verse with vs. 26a, “cravings.” We also note that the sluggard stands opposed to the diligent as noted in vs. 5.
Linked with vs. 24, it reminds us of the three temptations of Satan, “appetite, beauty and ambitious pride,” 1 John 2:16, cf. Gen 2:6; Mat 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13.
1 John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”
The result of the sluggard’s appetite, his wicked motivations, will “put him to death,” which is the causative active Hiphil Imperfect of MUTH that simply means, “to die” or here “he will be caused to die.”
We then see a further cause of his death with the Conjunction KI meaning, “for or because” with the intensive active Piel Perfect of MA’EN that means, “refuses” with the Qal Infinitive verb ASAH that means, “to do, make or work” with the Noun YAD for “hands.”
Appetite keeps normal people alive by driving them to work to satisfy it, but it kills the sluggard for his hands refuse to satisfy his appetite, Prov 19:24. This parasite on society, Prov 6:6, on account of laziness, his fatal spiritual flaw, obviously does not do justice, Prov 19:15. Therefore, his unfulfilled cravings kill him both by starvation and frustration, Prov 13:12.
Instead of “doing” righteousness and justice, the theme of this chapter, he refuses to “do” anything, cf. vs. 4, 7, 15. Therefore, we see that the lustful desires of the sluggard for laziness cause him to not perform any work, which causes him to perish.
We have noted the sluggard previously in Proverbs, (the spiritually lazy believer), where we have seen many problems he causes for himself:
- Prov 6:6, 9; he will always fail in the spiritual life, because his laziness results in moral failure.
- Prov 13:4; his soul wants nothing in terms of Bible Doctrine, and therefore he gets nothing.
- Prov 19:24; because he takes no initiative to learn God’s Word, he will not fulfill God’s Plan for his life, Prov 20:4.
- Prov 21:25; he will not “do his job,” especially in the spiritual life, which results in Divine discipline that could culminate in the Sin Unto Death.
- Prov 22:13; he always creates imaginary excuses for why he cannot do this or that, or why he did not do this or that for God,
- Prov 24:30; any spiritual prosperity and physical health he had will deteriorate,.
- Prov 26:13-16; due to the arrogance within his soul, he considers himself wise or a spiritual giant when in fact he is not.
Prov 21:26, “All day long he is craving, while the righteous gives and does not hold back.”
“All day long” is KOL YOM that has the connotation of constantly and without any relief.
“He is craving” in the Hebrew is actually two words giving a double emphasis on his empty desires. It first has AWAH that means, “to desire,” and then TA’AWAH that means, “longing, eager desire or delight” as we had in vs. 26. Here it is in the reflexive Hithpael Imperfect for “he himself continually lusts for.” Combined with AWAH it means, “he desires to desire,” or “he longs for delight,” and underscores the intensity of the sluggard’s greed.
The consequence of the sluggard’s ungratified craving escalates from his own death in vs. 25b, to his having nothing to share with the needy and thereby to save their lives, vs. 26b.
Then we have a contrast that notes, “while the righteous,” WA TSADDIQ, “gives,” the Qal Imperfect of NATHAN, “and does not,” WA LO, “hold back,” the Qal Imperfect of CHASAK that means, “to keep back or to spare.”
This giving means to help others by graciously bestowing the basic needs for which the sluggard craves, in contrast to the sluggard who will not lift even a finger to help himself; never mind others.
- The result of diligence is the ability to help those in need. Your work flourishes, so that you have more than enough for yourself. Because you have the insight that underlies diligence, you also understand that it is better to give than to receive, and are open-handed and generous.
- The sluggard, however, will never have enough to be generous, not even when confronted with a need that he wants to meet. Laziness and diligence thus affect not only the individuals themselves, but those around them.
Summary, Vs. 25-26:
The craving sluggard is lumped with the wicked, who craves for himself without sharing, in contrast to the righteous, who rejoices in giving, thereby performing mercy and justice, vs. 3, 15a. The insolent mocker on the other hand plunders the needy; the sluggard passively. He is no better than an armed robber, Prov 6:11
Prov 21:27, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination, how much more when he brings it with evil intent!”
Sandwiched between the two pairs of wicked types, Insolent Proud and Sluggard, vs. 25-26, and the Liar and Brazen Faced, vs. 28-29, here we see principles related to the false / hypocritical worshipper, whose worship or prayers are rejected by God.
“Sacrifice” is the Noun ZEBACH (zevach) that is used over 160 times in the OT. It is used of animal and grain offerings, burnt offerings, etc. made to the Lord. It is also used for false god worship in Ex 34:15; Psa 106:28. Here it is used of sacrifices to the Lord that are given under false pretense and/or an unrepentant heart.
That is shown in the subject of this sacrifice, “the wicked,” RASHA. This wicked one stands in the middle of the pairs of nefarious types in vs. 25-26 and 28-29, as noted above. Here this false worshipper is labeled “wicked,” a term applicable to all four characters in this section, and clearly connecting this character with them. Here it identifies unbelievers, (those who do not believe salvation is given by faith alone in Christ alone), and/or apostate believers, both of which are a part of or practicing a religion.
Therefore, wicked here is the crowd who plays church, but do not have true faith in God, His Son or His Word, but they go along with the crowd or religion, performing their ritualistic rites and duties.
When these “wicked” offer something to God, it “is an abomination,” TO’EBAH, something that is detestable, to Him. This could be a sacrifice or even a prayer.
Next we have an a-fortiori principle, if the ritualistic worship of unbelievers and apostate believers is detestable to God, then “how much more”, (the emphatic conjunction APH meaning, “and, also or indeed”), is the worship noted in the phrase, “he brings it,” (the causative active Hiphil Imperfect of BO), “with evil intent,” (a compound word in the Hebrew from KI for an emphatic response, with BE meaning, “in, by or with,” and ZIMMAH for, “a shameful deed or plot” that denotes a crass plan to hurt the community), an abomination to the Lord.
“With evil intent,” is deliberately vague here in order to cover a multitude of twisted motivations. Nevertheless, we see that hypocritical worship is bad enough, but worship with evil intent is deplorable. This tells us that it is one thing to falsely worship God, but it is another thing to “try to buy Him off.” That is, to flatter or offer something to Him so that He will perform some act for your benefit, many times at the expense or detriment of others. “It is a sacrifice calculated to make God a minister of sin.” (Waltke NIC.)
James 1:13, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.”
You cannot bribe or flatter God into performing some miracle or trick that will lift you up and/or bring others down. Because God is perfect righteousness and justice, He cannot and does not respond to evil or evil intent.
“Sacrifice in the ancient Near East was often an attempt to trick or manipulate gods into helping the offerer, or leaving him alone. The Lord, however, is not deceived by dissembling (false playacting) – religious or otherwise.” (Complete Biblical Library Commentary)
Just as Prov 15:8f, gave us this a-fortiori argument, we also see here that if the mindless religious sacrifices of the unbeliever or apostate believer are rejected before they reach His altar, how much worse is it to offer a sacrifice under false pretenses. God abhors worship without righteousness; ritual without reality.
Therefore, God does not want acts of worship or prayer without repentance, (i.e., rebound and recovery, 1 John 1:9); and He certainly detests them from someone still bent on wickedness, who thinks a sacrifice or a prayer will buy acceptance with God, or a favor from Him.
In popular religion people think that sacrifices or prayers can be given for any offense and without genuine submission to God. This happens with all religious acts. But God first requires of the worshiper true repentance and resolution to live righteously. In order to please Him, we must have both positional and experiential righteousness (+R), when we go before Him in prayer or worship.
Next, in vs. 28-29, we once again have contrasts between the foolish wicked, who will be defeated, and the righteous wise, who will be victorious.
Prov 21:28, “A false witness will perish, but the man who listens to the truth will speak forever.”
In vs. 27 we noted the false worshipper. Here we see the false teacher, and the determent of teaching false doctrine contrasted to the victory gained by speaking/teaching the truth of God’s Word.
“A false witness” is the Noun KAZAB (kazav) meaning, “a lie, deception or fraud,” with the Noun ED for, “witness or testimony.” This could stand for any form of deceptive speech, but in the context of the pervious verse, it is in regard to worship of God. This is the person who consciously aims to deceive and disadvantage another, typically for his own benefit. The false witness either cannot or will not listen to Bible doctrine objectively because he has a hidden agenda that distorts the truth and so is unable to live or speak the truth of God’s Word.
The consequence for falsely worshiping God or even being a false teacher of the Word of God, is that he “will perish,” the Qal Imperfect of ABAD (avad) meaning, that person “will be destroyed, obliterated, annihilated, ruined, exterminated, or perish.” It speaks to the judgment of God that could lead to the Sin Unto Death, as the false witness will be discredited and destroyed. That is, his testimony will be destroyed and/or he will be punished. We will note this and the failure of the false witness’ attempts against the Lord in vs. 30 that tells us, “There is no wisdom and no understanding and no counsel against the LORD.”
The contrast here, “but the man,” WA ISH, “who listens,” the Qal Active Participle of SHAMA, “will speak,” the intensive active Piel Imperfect of DABAR (davar) that is translated in about thirty different ways; all of which are related to the idea of communication, “to speak or say,” “forever,” LE NETSACH, נֵצַח which is used for the first time in Proverbs that means, “ever, always or perpetual.”
Interestingly, NETSACH is “used especially in prayers to ask whether God has forgotten His people forever, (Psa 13:1; 77:8; Jer 15:18; and to affirm that He has not, Psa 9:18; 103:9.” (Complete Word Study Dictionary.)
The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament notes, “The root verb NATSACH denotes both “brilliance” (yielding the connotations “preeminence, surpassing, glory, victory, leadership”) and “endurance” (supplying “longlasting, perpetual”). Returning to the noun form for the moment, then, one can grasp the difficulty of choice between “strength” or “glory” in references to divine attribute or Person. (The problem is with the English distinctives, since the Hebrew obviously embraces both at once).”
BDB basically defines the verb as “be pre-eminent, enduring, everlasting, perpetuity” and details distinctive usages from there. Hence, we see in the “listening believer” that he will speak the truth of God’s Word and have eternal glory.
Therefore, the contrast here is between true and false witnesses in the court room, or more predominately of God’s Word. The “listening” of the righteous (+R believer) means, they are taking in Bible Doctrine on a consistent basis, taking in the “truth” which is the primary requirement for gaining wisdom and its attendant or experiential righteousness, as we have noted in Prov 1:8; 2:2; 4:1f, 20; and will noted in Prov 22:17; 23:22. This explains the contrast between one who listens (i.e., to wisdom) and therefore tells the truth, with the false witness, who does not listen to the Word of God and therefore speaks falsely.
Notice the +R believer “listens” and the false witness, (the -R believer or unbeliever), “speaks.” So goes the old saying, “You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that order,” i.e., listen (take in God’s Word) twice as much as you speak.
“This believer knows how to listen attentively and critically so that his judgment is sound and his testimony reliable. Even God listens in this way (Prov 15:29).” (NIC)
Prov 15:29, “The LORD is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.”
The contrasting consequences imply that the former “perishes and does not have the last word,” but the latter “testifies successfully and does not perish.” Unlike a perjurer, a truthful witness can speak freely and without fear of negative consequences, but more importantly, can look forward with eager anticipation to the hope of eternal glory in Christ, as speaking forever means that your life will be a part of the historical record section in heaven for all to see and learn from, for all of eternity, Rev 3:12.
Rev 3:12, “’He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.”
Pillars in ancient Egypt and other societies were the structures in which they inscribed great historical feats for all to read and learn from. Pillars, made of stone or marble, would outlive their makers, inscribers and the ones whose acts where inscribed on them. Therefore, when you witness the truth of God’s Word, your words will outlast your life, and you will have an impact on generations to come.
Prov 21:29, “A wicked man shows a bold face, but as for the upright, he makes his way sure.”
By the catchword ISH, “man,” we see that the false witness in vs. 28 is linked with the “wicked man,” RASHA ISH, in vs. 29.
The false teacher, a.k.a the wicked man, “shows a bold face,” which is the verb AZAZ in the causative Hiphil Perfect that means, “to be strong or prevail,” with BE PANIM. So we have, “by or with his strong face,” which speaks to the audaciousness of his soul that is displayed in his countenance. “The image of the hardened face reflects a hardened heart (Plaut, p. 224); it portrays one who holds the opinions and views of others in contempt (see Isa 48:4; Jer 5:3; Ezek 3:7).” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary.) Therefore, he shows his defiance by his countenance, which is an abstraction for the liar/false teacher and probably all the nefarious types in this section.
Isa 48:4, “Because I know that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew, and your forehead bronze.”
Jer 5:3b, “They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to repent.”
We can only assume from the context of these passages that the false teacher’s bold face is in defiance of God and His Word. That is, this false teacher displays the utmost confidence in what he is teaching even though it is counter to God’s Word. And unfortunately, because of his display of confidence, many people are convinced he is correct in what he is teaching.
We also see this character in Psa 52:7, “Behold, the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and was strong in his evil desire.”
Therefore, we see the audacious boldness of the defiant liar, i.e., the false witness, where there is no true righteousness, justice, vs. 3, or mercy, vs. 10, coming from his teaching, only pseudo righteousness, justice and mercy can be expected from the brazen wicked.
Then we have the contrast, “but as for the upright” WA YASHAR, the believer walking under experiential sanctification, the +R believer, “he makes his way sure,” HU KUN DEREK.
KUN is in the causative active Hiphil Imperfect that means, “to prepare or establish.” Here it means, “he causes his way to be established.” Therefore, the path that he is walking on is caused to be a righteous one because of the Bible doctrine in his soul that leads him on the firm and sure path of life, i.e., living inside the plan of God for his life.
We have here the principle that a bold front is no substitute for sound Bible doctrine in the soul. And those who are truly righteous cultivate a consistent life style that is a true witness for Christ, which is pleasing to God.
Prov 4:26-27, “Watch the path of your feet, and all your ways will be established. 27Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil.”
In comparison to the bold face liar, this believer lives obediently to wisdom (Bible doctrine) and thus has the confidence that comes from doing what is right, Prov 28:1, “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are bold as a lion.”
Vs. 30-31: Conclusion, The Sovereignty, Omniscience and Omnipotence of the Lord that Brings Him and Us Victory.
In these concluding passages, we will see that all worldly wisdom that is brought against the Lord will ultimately be defeated. Just as this chapter began with the declaration of the Sovereignty of the Lord, so it concludes, much like Chapter 16.
Prov 21:30, “There is no wisdom and no understanding and no counsel against the LORD.”
“There is no” is the Substantive AYIN meaning, “nothingness or non-existence.”
“Wisdom” is the usual CHOKMAH. It means, “to act wisely or to carry out right principles.” For example, a wise workman works according to the right principles of his craft, producing a quality product. Also morally it means, a wise person lives out the revealed principles of right and wrong, which reflect the character of God.
“And no understanding” is WA AYIN TEBUNAH. TEBUNAH means, “insight, skill or understanding.”
“And no counsel” is WA AYIN ETSAH. ETSAH means, “advice, counsel, a plan, or purpose,” that is conceived in the mind of an individual that is to be actively carried out.
“Against the Lord” is the Prepositions LE meaning, “to or towards,” and NEGED that means, “before or opposite.” When combined they mean, “against or in opposition to.”
With these three, (human wisdom, human understanding and human counsel), men come into opposition with YHWH; the Hebrew Tetragrammaton for “the Lord.”
All combined it means to act in opposition to God’s will, and linked with vs. 31, all three refer to military strategy, which reminds us that we are all a part of the Angelic Conflict. In that conflict, which is being carried out here in human history, some people are on the side of Satan, either intentionally or unintentionally. Their wisdom, understanding, counsel, and planning cannot hold a candle to that of the Lord’s, and will absolutely never defeat or overrule His Sovereign will. Therefore, this triple anaphoric proverb drives home the vast and unbridgeable gulf between the best of human wisdom and the Lord’s sovereignty, 1 Cor 1:18-25; 3:19.
1 Cor 3:19, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, ‘He is THE ONE WHO CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS’.”
At the same time we note that this does not negate human wisdom, but puts it into perspective, in that true wisdom, counsel and understanding are from the Lord and that wisdom will stand forever, Prov 8:22-31. Human “wisdom, insight and counsel / planning,” must be in conformity to the will of God to be successful.
Yet, we see that the wicked who brazenly defy God and His wisdom, as noted in vs. 28 along with vs. 31, reminds us that no power, human or angelic, can stand before the power of God’s Word. Human plans and counsel, however wise and insightful, nor the best preparations we can make are able to frustrate the sovereign and wise Plan of God, cf. Isa 14:27.
Isa 14:27, “For the LORD of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?”
In comparison to the Lord, who is infinite in His omniscience and omnipotence, our human ability fails to even raise its head above the threshold of human folly. And without Him, never mind being against Him, how much does human wisdom, understanding and counsel pale in comparison and become none existent. Therefore, truly wise planning entails submitting your plans to the Lord, knowing that in the end it is His cause that will prevail, Prov 16:3f. No human being, even the upright (+R), has the power to complete his endeavor independent from the Lord. The Lord has the final word in realizing any goal, 2 Cor 13:8.
2 Cor 13:8, “For we can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth.”
Having noted the Sovereignty and Omniscience of God, we now turn to His Sovereignty and Omnipotence.
Prov 21:31, “The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but victory belongs to the LORD.”
“The Horse,” SUS סוּס, “is prepared,” the causative passive Hophal Participle of KUN, “for the horse was caused to be prepared or established,” “for the day,” LE YOM, “of battle,” MILCHAMAH, which we noted in Prov 20:17 that means war or battle. This is speaking about military preparedness.
This first phrase adds a fourth component to mankind’s and Satan’s actions in opposition to the Lord. It moves from the planning stage where “wisdom, understanding and counsel/planning” were employed, to now taking the necessary steps and actions to arrange for battle. It moves from thought to action inside the Angelic Conflict.
It also speaks to where man places his trust; in its military and economy or God. To fund a well-equipped military you must have a great economy. Many trust in their military and economy to save them, that is why Micah 5:10-16, equates trust in military hardware with idolatry and witchcraft.
“But true victory,” WA TESHUAH meaning, “deliverance or salvation,” “belongs to or comes from the Lord,” YHWH.
Notice the rhythmic linkage between TEBUNAH for “understanding” and TESHUAH for “deliverance.”
In any and every war or battle, the sovereignty of God has determined the outcome in eternity past, which fits into His overall Divine Decree for mankind. In the Angelic Conflict, the victory of the Cross of Jesus Christ 2000 years ago, was Decreed in eternity past. Therefore, if you want victory in the Angelic Conflict, you must submit all your thoughts and actions to the Lord, and seek His wise Divine counsel, guidance, omnipotence and sovereignty before battle, Prov 20:18; 24:6; cf. 2 Chron 32:2-8.
Ultimate success comes from God and not from our human efforts.
“Do not fight against the Lord, and, if you want victory, do not fight without Him.” (Ryrie Study Bible.)
“Behind the victory of the righteous/wise over the wicked/fool stands the invincible Lord.” (New International Commentary)
As David notes in Psa 27:3, “Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear; though war arise against me, in spite of this I shall be confident.”
Asa noted in 2 Chron 14:11, “Then Asa called to the LORD his God, and said, “LORD, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O LORD our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; let not man (ENOSH, signifying frail and incurable. It pictures man in his low estate as fallen and mortal), prevail against You.” Read also vs. 12-13 for the victory given by the Lord.
Vernon McGee notes, “That does not mean that we are not to be prepared. Jesus said that a strong man armed keeps his palace, and his goods are in peace. “But safety is of Jehovah.” Keep your powder dry, but be sure your faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ and that you are resting in Him.” (Thru The Bible)