The Book of Proverbs ~ Chapter 22

The Book of Proverbs
Chapter 22

Returning back to our study of the Book of Proverbs, we once again note the basic outline of the book.

Solomon I:

Collection I, chapters 1-9

Collection II, chapters 10:1-22:16

Collection III, chapters 22:17-24:22

Collection IV chapters 24:23-24:34

Solomon II:

Collection V, chapters 25-29

The Sayings of Agur Son of Jakeh:

Collection VI, chapter 30

The Sayings of Lemuel:

Collection VII, chapter 31

As you can see, there are four main authors and seven “collections” or mini books within the overall book. The reason we say four authors is because Solomon II is a collection of couplets or sayings thought to have originally been authored by Solomon but collected and edited by King Hezekiah’s men, “i.e., the “Men of Hezekiah.” Therefore, they get credit for authorship.

In this round of studying the Book of Proverbs, we are going to continue in Collection II that ends half-way through Chapter 22 in vs. 16, and finish Chapter 22 by beginning Collection III.

A more detailed outline of the sections we will study in this round are highlighted in bold below:

II. Collection 2: Solomon’s couplets expressing wisdom, Prov 10:1 – 22:16.

A. The marks of wise living, Prov 10 – 15.

B. How to please God, Prov 16:1 – 22:16.

1.) Trusting God, Prov 16.

2.) Peacemakers and troublemakers, Prov 17.

3.) Friendship and folly, Prov 18.

4.) Further advice for pleasing God, Prov 19:1 – 22:16.

III. Collection 3: Thirty sayings of the wise, Prov 22:17 – 24:22.

A. Introduction to the 30 sayings, Prov 22:17-21.

B. The 30 sayings, Prov 22:22 – 24:22.

IV. Collection 4: Six more sayings of the wise, Prov 24:23-34.

In Chapter 22, we will conclude the proverbs encouraging godly living, Prov 16:1-22:16, and begin the proverbs concerning various practices, Prov 22:17-24:34.

Specifically, we will see:

  • How the wise discipline themselves to follow God in everything, vs. 1-16.
  • Wisdom tells us when to speak and when to be silent, vs. 17-21.
  • The wise ones care for and protect the poor, vs. 22-29.

We begin with, “How the wise discipline themselves to follow God in everything,” vs. 1-16.

Here we see that the theme of the Lord’s sovereignty over kingdoms and peoples, which we previously studied in Prov 21:30-31, that paves the way for a description of the theme regarding our Lord’s sovereignty over wealth in the first sub-unit vs. 1-9; the final unit of Collection II. Every verse, except the partial sub-unit of vs. 5-6, contains terms pertaining to wealth. As such, this section teaches that the Lord pays back virtue but punishes immorality. In the light of God’s moral administration, this section aims to moderate the rich, to console the poor, to warn the oppressor, and to comfort the oppressed, cf. vs. 7.

Vs. 1, is an introduction to the whole section that speaks of the need for moral instruction in connection with wealth, which is expanded in vs. 10-16, of which vs. 15-16, function as a conclusion to the theme. We also see the emphasis on moral instruction when connecting vs. 6-7, with vs. 15-16, that draws the unit and the Collection to its conclusion. Vs. 6, calls for correcting youth’s innate depravity as soon as possible, and vs. 15, calls for discipline, (chapter 5 similarly mixed the call for moral instruction with the lesson).

From a literary perspective, the key root word “rich,” ASHIR, is found in vs. 1a, 2a, 4a, 7a, 16b that encompasses the whole section, cf. vs. 1 and 16. In addition, the catchword “the Lord” is used in vs. 2, 4, 12, and 14 that punctuates the section, as does the refrain “gives,” NATHAN and “poor,” DAL, concluding the verse of each half, vs. 9, 16. In addition, vs. 15-16, function as a conclusion to the whole section.

The first sub-section, vs. 1-9, consists of an introduction asserting the priority of a good name compared to wealth, vs. 1. In support of this, the following verses combine, the Lord’s sovereignty, vs. 2, with human accountability, vs. 3-4, with the assertion of the Lord’s retribution, vs. 7-9. In the middle of all of this, we see the importance of education, vs. 5-6. Throughout we see the assertion of equality between the rich and poor before the Lord, especially in heaven, vs. 2-4, and their inequality on earth, vs. 7-9. Each, in its own way, seeks to heal the natural social rupture between the classes that destroy the community’s peace.

The second sub-section, vs. 10-16, consists of three proverb pairs:

  1. The introduction, regarding the king’s friends, vs. 10-11, that indirectly motivates the youth to accept the parent’s teaching by commanding rulers to evict mockers and by asserting the pure and understanding have the king for a friend.
  2. The body, containing warnings against the deceptive speech of the sluggard vs. 12, and the unfaithful wife, vs. 13-14, with the warnings against easy money and easy sex by asserting the Lord unfailingly protects the moral order upheld by the ideal king, vs. 12a, through frustrating treacherous words, vs. 12b.
  3. The conclusion, pertaining to wealth and moral instruction, vs. 15-16, implicitly instructs the father to drive folly, such as laziness and promiscuity, from the son’s depraved nature.

1. How the wise discipline themselves to follow God in everything, vs. 1-16.

Vs. 1

Prov 22:1, “A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, favor is better than silver and gold.”

The key words here are “good name,” SHEM, and “desired,” BACHAR. In Hebrew, it reads from right to left: שֵׁם בָּחַר. The Noun SHEM simply means, “name,” but has the connotation here of “reputation, held in high regard or high esteem by others.”

The Verb BACHAR is used for “to be desired” but in its root form means, “to choose or select.” It is in the Niphal stem that typically is a simple passive meaning something that is received, but here it is in the reflexive use for “to be desired.” It speaks of an action that goes back to the main object. Therefore, this person is not choosing or selecting their name or what their reputation is, instead it is something that is given to them as a result of their Divine Good Production. It is something that we all should desire or seek after. With the play on word of “chosen or selected,” it is a choice name meaning one that is venerated or held with esteem or in high regard. It also gives imagery of being chosen into the family of God, held in high regard or esteem by the Lord, and therefore something we should strive for as we “walk worthy of our calling / election,” as we noted recently in Eph 1:4; 3:15; 4:1.

Eph 1:4, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.”

Eph 3:15, “From whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.”

Eph 4:1, “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.”

So, this is speaking about having a good reputation, because it is “better than,” (TOB), all the “great wealth” (RAB OSHER) in the world, measured here by silver (KESEPH, “silver, money”) and gold (ZAHAB), as the parallelism shows.

Having a “good name” is the result of a life that gains the approval of others, rather than one that seeks its own fame, cf. Prov 25:6-7.

Prov 25:6-7, “Do not claim honor in the presence of the king, and do not stand in the place of great men; 7For it is better that it be said to you, “Come up here,” Than for you to be placed lower in the presence of the prince, whom your eyes have seen.”

In these words of wisdom, we see that the choice between pursuing worldly wealth, which provides a certain type of fame, and doing that which elicits a gracious, (“favor,” CHEN, “grace or favor”), response from others, is an easy one for the wise person, because he realizes the TRUE value and worth of each.

Although only the second line actually uses the words “better than,” “more desirable” in the first half, it also shows that each line contains a “greater than” type of saying, cf. Prov 15:16f; 16:32. Therefore, having a good reputation in the world is far better than having great riches in the world.

What is in a good name? A good name represents a person’s good character and his memory in others, cf. Prov 10:7; 18:10; 21:24, and depends upon his own wisdom in the application of God’s Word in his life, Prov 3:1-4.

Prov 3:1-4, “My son, do not forget my teaching, But let your heart keep my commandments; 2For length of days and years of life, And peace they will add to you. 3Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart. 4So you will find favor and good repute In the sight of God and man.”

At the same time, other passages tell us that wisdom is a co-referential term for a “good name,” as having priority to riches, Prov 2:1-6; 3:14; 8:10-11, 19; 16:16.

Prov 3:14, “For its (wisdom leading to a good reputation) profit is better than the profit of silver, and its gain than fine gold.

Prov 8:10-11, “Take my instruction, and not silver, and knowledge rather than choicest gold. 11For wisdom is better than jewels; and all desirable things cannot compare with her.”

In addition, according to Prov 13:15a, social favor is affected through good insight, “Good understanding produces favor,” cf. Prov 11:27; 12:8; 18:3. In sum, a good name is the outward expression of the person’s inner wisdom.

Prov 11:27, “He who diligently seeks good seeks favor, but he who searches after evil, it will come to him.”

Prov 12:8, “A man will be praised according to his insight, but one of perverse mind will be despised.”

In this positive comparison, material wealth is esteemed as good but the social quality of a good reputation is far better, cf. Eccl 7:1; Sir. 41:11-13.

Eccl 7:1, “A good name is better than a good olive oil (ointment), and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.”

Sirach 41:11-13 (KJV Apocrypha), “The mourning of men is about their bodies: but an ill name of sinners shall be blotted out. 12Have regard to your name; for that shall continue with you above a thousand great treasures of gold. 13A good life has but few days: but a good name endures forever.”

Wealth can be obtained apart from virtue, Prov 11:16, 28, but not a good name. And yet, wisdom gives both, Prov 3:14. Moreover, wealth can pass away unexpectedly and quickly, Prov 23:4-5, but a good name endures, Prov 10:7; cf. 2 Sam 18:18; Luke 7:4-5; Acts 9:36-39. And, the value of this social favor can be gauged by considering the value of gold.

As we will see, the rest of this section defines a good name as being generous to the poor, not striving to become rich at their expense, vs. 2, 4, 7, 9, 16.

These proverbs present the argument that one can either become a student of wisdom and be a gracious member of adult society or an example of folly and a curse to society.

Vs. 2

Prov 22:2, “The rich and the poor have a common bond, The LORD is the maker of them all.”

Reputation is to be preferred above riches, as noted in vs. 1, but there is to be no preferences or preferential treatment between the rich and poor. To make this point, this proverb asserts the Lord’s sovereignty over both the rich and poor. It means that rich and poor have a common Maker / Creator / God and so, a common humanity and value. Although the wealthy and the poor may appear far removed from each other in society, they have the same God. Therefore, there should be no preferences in our behaviors between the rich and poor. To make such distinctions is to dishonor God, the “Maker of them all,” cf. Prov 14:31; 17:5; 29:13; Job 34:19.

Job 34:19, “Who shows no partiality to princes nor regards the rich above the poor, for they all are the work of His hands?”

In addition, we see that neither the wealthy nor the poor are anything other than human, which should humble the wealthy, who are inclined to glory in their riches, cf. Prov 18:1, and should encourage the poor, who are sometimes treated as less than human.

At the same time, the rich should not look down on or despise the poor, nor should the poor envy or despise the wealthy. They will each give an account to the same Maker for their own attitudes and deeds, cf. Rom 14:4.

Rom 14:4, “Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”

Therefore, we are to treat one another, not according to the flesh, but according to being fellow members of the human race who have the same Maker and so, a common humanity and value, 1 Sam 2:7-8; Prov 29:13; 2 Cor 5:16.

1 Sam 2:7-8, “The LORD makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts. 8He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with nobles, and inherit a seat of honor; for the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, and He set the world on them.”

Prov 29:13, “The poor man and the oppressor have this in common: The LORD gives light to the eyes of both.”

2 Cor 5:16, “Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.”

Therefore, we are to treat everyone, rich or poor, slave or free, male or female, Jew or Gentile the same with brotherly love, because we are one in God, and for believers, one in Christ, Rom 3:22; Gal 3:28; 1 Cor 12:13; Col 3:11; with Lev 19:18; Mat 19:19; Rom 13:8-10.

Vs. 3

Prov 22:3, “The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, but the naive go on, and are punished for it.”

This verse is identical to Prov 27:12, which precedes a specific example of someone who fails to consider the consequences of foolish decisions and actions.

Prov 27:12, “A prudent man sees evil and hides himself, the naive proceed and pay the penalty.”

The theme of human accountability bind vs. 3-4 together as a proverb pair, along with several nuances of the Hebrew language. Together they protect vs. 2 from misinterpretation. God does create both rich and poor yet, human folly leads to impoverishment, vs. 3, while prudence, humility, and the fear of the Lord lead to riches, honor, and life, vs. 4.

The prudent,” is the Hebrew Adjective ARUM, ‏עָרוּם used as a Noun here that means, “crafty, shrewd, sensible, or prudent.” Outside of Proverbs it is used negatively for scheming sinners, but in Proverbs it is used positively for “sensible or prudent,” cf. Prov 12:16, 23; 13:16; 14:8, 15, 18; 27:12.

The naïve,” is the Hebrew Adjective PETHI, פֶּתִי also used as a Noun that means, “inexperienced, simple, foolish, simplemindedness.” We have seen this word throughout Proverbs. It refers to a person who is naïve concerning the complexities and challenges of life, inexperienced, lacking insight, and those who are just outright foolish in their thinking and behavior. In Ezek. 45:20, it refers to being deficient in observing or understanding God’s Word.

Pay the penalty,” is the Hebrew Verb ANASH עָנַשׁ in the Passive Niphal stem that means “to receive a fine or to be punished.” This tells us that the wise man will be able to avoid the loss of goods, while the simple man will lose his money. If the naive do not learn and develop moral astuteness when scoffers are fined, Prov 21:11, they too will suffer a painful financial loss.

A distinctive characteristic of the prudent, as seen throughout Proverbs, is his ability with keen moral discernment, Prov 13:16; 14:8, 18, to choose his steps cautiously, Prov 14:15, including taking cover to avoid evil and its consequences. He protects himself by not participating in evil and by taking preventative action against receiving a punitive judgment.

Prov 13:16, “Every prudent man acts with knowledge, But a fool displays folly.”

Prov 14:8, “The wisdom of the sensible is to understand his way, But the foolishness of fools is deceit.”

Prov 14:18, “The naive inherit foolishness, But the sensible are crowned with knowledge.”

By hiding himself from evil, the shrewd protects himself from serious loss, which the gullible could have avoided had they too hidden themselves from evil.

The prudent, by faith, discern the connection between generosity and enrichment and between tyranny and impoverishment. The naïve fail to see these connections and so act impulsively without regard to moral law, cf. Prov 7:21-23, and take no precaution to find cover / salvation while they can, Prov 1:32; cf. Isa 26:11.

Prov 1:32, “For the waywardness of the naive will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them.”

Those who are prudent and wise look ahead for potential problems or risks because they want to avoid the negative consequences if they can. When life is flashing red lights and warning signs that say, “Danger Ahead,” they pay attention. Wise men sometimes avoid a painful future by altering the decisions they make today. They do not want to be hurt or make costly mistakes, so they change their course. Wisdom soberly looks ahead before making decisions. As the sayings go, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” “Haste makes waste!” “Hindsight sees 20-20.” Cf. Eph 5:15.

Eph 5:15-17, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

Foresight is the viewpoint of the prudent and with God’s blessing many problems can be avoided. Yet, the naïve or foolish, the hasty one, is nearsighted. They carelessly live for the now and confidently rush head long with little regard to the risk of their actions. Caught up and overwhelmed in the moment, they fail to protect their future. The warnings they ignored, materialize into trouble that punishes them often and severely.

“A prudent man foresees the evil. It is the foolish general that marches on, with a grand display of bravery, to the annihilation of his army. It’s the wise general that sees a battle and its consequences and determines to withdraw to fight another time under different circumstances. The enemy, his own men, and his heart may call him a coward, but he knows discretion is better than valor. He wants the odds in his favor before fighting. This is what Sam Houston did when he led the Texas Army to the banks of the San Jacinto River.

After the Alamo had fallen, General Sam Houston led the 800 man Texas army for five weeks, waiting for the odds to be in his favor to attack the army of Mexico. He was pressured by his leaders to attack, yet, he waited, not revealing his plans to anyone. Finally, on April 21, 1836, the odds were in his favor. Approximately, 1500 Mexican soldiers were encamped with their backs to the flooded San Jacinto River. Houston attacked with such surprise and swiftness, the army of Mexico did not know what hit them. Nine Texans were killed and thirty were wounded. On the Mexican side, 630 were killed and 730 were taken prisoner. The result was Texas won its independence from Mexico. Houston won the battle on his own terms. Those who thought he was a coward, realized his wisdom in his victory.” (Mattoon’s Treasures from Proverbs).

Therefore, those who are shrewd can avoid the dangers of life. The prudent know where the dangers and pitfalls are in life; they are wary. They are the product of training in wisdom and discipline. Yet, the naïve person is unwary, uncritical, and gullible; he is not equipped to survive in this world and so blunders into all kinds of trouble. The failure of the naïve to spot danger arises from their arrogant refusal to submit to God and His Word. In God’s exceeding love, He faithfully warns us of the terrible consequences of refusing to obey Him and receive the grace He offers through Christ Jesus. The man with God’s wisdom in his soul, sees the evil coming and hides himself in the refuge God has provided, cf. Isa 32:2; Psa 32:7.

Psa 32:7, “You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.”

But, the simple harden their hearts and refuse to heed the warning of imminent danger, thus ensuring their own self-induced misery, Cf. Eph 3:17-19.

Therefore, in our next verse, we see the reward for the wisdom of submitting to the Lord.

In vs. 1, we are exhorted to have a good reputation; in vs. 2, to have good community relationships; in vs. 3, to have good avoidance of evil; and now in vs. 4, to have a good relationship with the Lord.

Vs. 4

Prov 22:4, “The reward of humility and the fear of the LORD, are riches, honor and life.”

The theme of human accountability binds vs. 3 and 4 together as a proverb pair. The first half of this verse offers the remedy for the naïve / foolish to become prudent. The second half tells of the benefits or “wages” the prudent then gains. It moves us from avoiding a terrible fine to gaining an immense wage that is better than silver and gold.

From the Hebrew this passage literally reads, “The reward of humility, the fear of the LORD, riches and honor and life.”

Commentators view this verse in at least two ways.

The first is:  [(                A                 )   +   (              B                 )]  =   (               C               )

Prov 22:4, “The reward of humility and the fear of the LORD, are riches, honor and life.”

In this scenario, which is the one we prescribe to, the “reward of humility” plus “the fear of the Lord,” equals the blessings of “riches and honor and life.”

The 2nd is:    (                 A                 )    =    [(               B                  ) + (  C  ) + (  D  )  +  ( E )]

Prov 22:4, “The reward of humility and the fear of the LORD, are riches, honor and life.”

In the second scenario, some, like Keil and Delitzsch, interpret this verse as asyndeton, leaving out the conjunction “and” between “humility” and “fear” for poetical purposes. Therefore, the reward for having humility of the soul is fourfold. The four rewards are: 1) fear of the Lord, 2) riches, 3) honor, and 4) life. As such, the “reward of humility” results in the blessings of “the fear of the Lord,” and “riches,” and “honor,” and “life.” In this reading the verse would say, “The reward of humility is the fear of the LORD, and riches, and honor, and life.”

Nevertheless, in the Hebrew, the “and” or WA is actually found twice; once between “riches” and “honor,” and then between “honor” and “life.” Yet, it is not found between “the fear of the Lord,” and “riches,” which leads to the first interpretation above, as the NASB, KJV, NIV, ASV, ESV and others translate it. This is also in agreement with the understanding that to have humility, we must have the fear of the Lord in our lives. When we do, it leads to God’s grace blessings being in our lives.

As the Proverbs tell us, whoever finds wisdom finds the fear of the Lord, Prov 1:29; 2:5 and gains life, Prov 3:18, 22; 4:13; 8:35; 9:6. This tells us that to truly have the “fear of Lord,” we must to have His Word in our soul. If you do not know Him, you cannot fear or respect Him.

Now, humility is the willingness to be subject to another. In this verse, God and His Word are the beginning of the process. As such, “humility and the fear of the Lord” go together in this passage, and their reward is “riches, and honor, and life.”

The reward” is the Noun EQEB עֵקֶב that means, “cause or end result.” It is derived from a word that means “heel or hoof” and figuratively carries that meaning of “the end of something.” Several times, as in our passage, it carries the idea of an end result that means, “reward.” Cf. Psa 19:11.

Psa 19:9-11, “The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. 10They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. 11Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”

As we noted above, having “humility,” ANAWAH, עֲָנָוה, and the “fear of the Lord,” YIR’AH YAHWEH, (which we studied the doctrine of in Eph 5:21), has the reward or blessing of having “riches,” OSHER, “honor,” KABOD, (glory, honor, weightiness of reputation, wealth, majesty), and “life,” HAYYIM. These three blessings pertain to having a good reputation in vs. 1.

Humility is the quality or condition of being humble, a lack of pride, modesty, and/or respectfulness towards others. It means, to subordinate oneself to God, and to give honor to Him alone. To do so, you have to break your self-will, and come to the knowledge of yourself as in His dependence with helplessness and sin on your part.

The failure of the naïve to spot danger, vs. 3, comes from their arrogant refusal to submit to God, vs. 4. The inevitable outcome of pride and arrogance is disaster, Prov 11:2; 16:18-19; 18:12; 29:1, 23, whereas a humble, obedient attitude reaps rewards, Prov 15:33, (that also links the fear of the Lord with honor and humility).

Prov 11:2, “When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom.”

Prov 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.”

Prov 16:19, “It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly than to divide the spoil with the proud.”

Prov 18:12, “Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, but humility goes before honor.”

Prov 29:23, “A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor.”

Prov 15:33, “The fear of the LORD is the instruction for wisdom, and before honor comes humility.”

The “fear of YAHWEH,” is synonymous with the worship of Him, and humility means to obey Him in the application of His Word in your life. Therefore, when we worship God through the intake of His Word and then apply it in our lives, we will receive blessing from Him including high honor and praise, not only from Him but also from those around us. These rewards are combined elsewhere, Prov 3:16; 8:18; 21:21.

Prov 21:21, “He who pursues righteousness and loyalty finds life, righteousness, and honor.”

Notice that these blessings or riches are not materialistic or monetary, but are having the “life,” i.e., the Christ-like nature of walking in “righteousness,” that results in your glorification; being “honored” by God and man.

Prov 3:16, “Long life is in her (i.e., Wisdoms / Bible Doctrines) right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.”

Prov 8:18, “Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness.”

The need for humility begins this book, cf. Prov 1:7; 3:5f, since only the humble respond wisely to teaching and correction, Prov 9:7-12. Therefore, we are exhorted to put on humility in the fear of the Lord and learn His Word for application in our lives, because a humble, obedient attitude reaps rewards, Prov 15:33.

Prov 15:33, “The fear of the LORD is the instruction for wisdom, and before honor comes humility.”

Yet, if we do not humble ourselves, the inevitable outcome will be pride and arrogance that results in disaster, Prov 16:18; 29:1.

The person who walks humbly before God, will find honor among people, as the “fear of the Lord” is linked with “honor and humility” in 1 Kings 3:12-14; Isa 66:2; Luke 14:11; 18:14; James 4:6, 10; 1 Peter 5:5-6.

In 1 Kings 3:12-14, after Solomon’s request for an obedient heart in 1 Kings 3:9

1 Kings 3:9, “So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”

… the Lord promised him wealth and honor, but made a condition for prolonging his days on his continued humble obedience to God’s Word, cf. Prov 3:2. The condition was humility with the fear of the Lord.

1 Kings 3:14, “If you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments, as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days.”

Prov 3:1-2, “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; 2For length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.”

Luke 14:11, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted (honored).”

James 4:10, “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.”

1 Peter 5:5-6, “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE (Prov 3:34). 6Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.”

What does it mean to have a humble attitude? (From Mattoon’s Treasures from Proverbs, Volume 1).

  • Humility involves Acceptance

First of all, humility is the acceptance of your place appointed by God, whether in the front or in the rear, whether you are in a big ministry or small one. The psalmist was thrilled to be a door keeper in the house of the Lord. Notice what Paul said in Phil 4:11.

Phil 4:11, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”

  • Humility Involves Acknowledgment:

Secondly, true humility does not convince oneself that you are worthless, but recognizes God’s working in your life. The attitude that says, “I am no good. I cannot do anything for God,” is not humility, but an excuse for laziness. You do what you want to do. Yet, if you have a desire to serve Christ, you will find a way to serve Him and do the best you can.

Phil 2:3, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.”

  • Humility Involves Abiding:

Thirdly, true humility revels or abides in God’s grace instead of your own accomplishments and abilities. Humility causes you to see yourself from God’s viewpoint and acknowledges God’s grace and work in your life despite the fact you are a sinner and have faults and weaknesses. Humility gives you an accurate view of yourself.

1 Cor 15:9-10, “For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”

Did you know that the smaller you become, the more room God has to work in your life? D.L. Moody said, “God will send no one away empty except those who are full of themselves.” This is one reason why people get critical, cranky, and selfish… they are full of themselves. Pride fills you with selfishness and an inaccurate assessment of yourself. We are cautioned about pride and its inaccurate assessments of ourselves.

Rom 12:3, “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”

Obadiah 1:4, “Though you build high like the eagle, though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” declares the LORD.”

  • Humility Involves Assessment:

A fourth principle on humility is this… “Do you have humility?” Realize God will test your humility and whether you have a servant’s heart. A true test of servanthood is if I act like one when I am treated like one. The humble person remains the same person in all circumstances whether he is put down or exalted, humiliated or honored. If a person has a humble servant’s heart, there will be no limit to what he can accomplish if he is unconcerned with who gets the credit. D.L. Moody said, “A man can counterfeit many graces and character traits, but it is difficult to counterfeit humility.” One man tried to counterfeit his humility when he said, “Only my great humility keeps me from telling you how truly wonderful I am.”

As you scan the Scriptures, you find David has a humble heart of a servant.

Psa 131:1-2, “O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things too difficult for me. 2Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me.”

David was content with God’s leading in his life. Pride will overvalue self and undervalue others. Humility motivates one to love and serve others. Pleasing the Lord and giving glory to God is a priority of the person with a humble attitude.

  • Humility gives you friendliness and peaceful relations (Amity), while leaving you Anchored.

A fifth principle about humility is pride and selfishness will leave you miserable and dissatisfied. Humility leaves a person stable, secure, at peace, and contented. You do not have to try to prove yourself or pretend to be something you are not when you have humility because you are not seeking fame. This truth will change glory seekers and crowd pleasers. You do not have to be a slave to others’ expectations anymore. This leaves you free from worry and frustration that are linked with trying to impress people. You can be yourself and concentrate on doing your best and reaching whatever goals you have for your life. And, when you have true humility, you will also reap, “riches, honor and life.”

Vs. 5

Prov 22:5, “Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse; he who guards himself will be far from them.”

In vs. 1, we are exhorted to have a good reputation; in vs. 2, to have good community relationships; in vs. 3, to have good avoidance of evil; in vs. 4, to have a good relationship with the Lord, and now in vs. 5, to good in our soul as we guard it from sin through humility.

In contrast to vs. 4, the first half speaks of the way of the “perverse,” ‘IQQESH, עִקֵּשׁ that means, “perverse, crooked, or distorted” acts of sinful men. We have noted this word in Prov 2:15; 8:8; 11:20; 17:20; 19:1, and will see it again in Prov 28:6.

Prov 11:20, “The perverse in heart are an abomination to the LORD, but the blameless in their walk are His delight.”

Prov 17:20, “He who has a crooked mind finds no good, and he who is perverted in his language falls into evil.”

Prov 28:6, “Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than he who is crooked though he be rich.”

As a result of having a lack of humility and therefore being spiritually and morally corrupt, there will be “thorns,” TSEN, צֵן and “snares,” PACH, פַּח in the life of the sinner. TSEN is only used here and in Job 5:5; Amos 4:2. PACH is used 25 times in the OT.

Both of these words are used figuratively for undesirable places or locations that one can enter into, including undesirable thoughts and sins; for the sharp hooks used to lead away prisoners, in this case prisoners of sin and Satan’s cosmic system; and for the surprise trappings that others lay for you to enter into sin.

Prov 5:22, “His own iniquities will capture the wicked, and he will be held with the cords of his sin.”

Prov 29:6, “By transgression an evil man is ensnared, but the righteous sings and rejoices.”

Yet, in support of the “prudent” in vs. 4, the second half of this verse says, “He who guards himself will be far from them,” that tells us of the trouble we can avoid by guarding our hearts, Prov 4:23, by having genuine humility with our soul.

Prov 4:23, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”

Guards” is the familiar word SHAMAR that means, “to observe, guard, keep, or protect.” This tells us of the responsibility of guardianship the believer has over “himself,” NEPHESH, נֶפֶשׁ, that means, “soul or life.” This guardianship comes from making good decisions from a place of strength and power called the Word of God. Without God’s Word in your soul, you would not be able to truly protect your soul as you should. There is some basic or minor protection that comes to all of mankind by abiding by God’s Divine establishment principles, but complete guardianship over our souls, over our lives, can be accomplished when we learn and apply God’s Word in humility.

Those who practice perversion, deceit, crookedness, i.e., sin, are blinded by their own way of thinking and so cannot avoid either the troubles of life or the problems created by others. Yet, with the Word of God resident within your soul by having genuine humility to learn and apply it, you can avoid or be “far from” or “separated from” RACHAQ, רָחַק‎, the thorns and snares of life inside of Satan’s cosmic system that will lead you to sin and/or keep you in sin as well. 

This verse also reinforces vs. 3, as well as its parallel in Prov 27:12, by exhorting us to apply humility in our lives so that we have the wisdom of God’s Word to see sin and its dangers, and then avoid them, cf. Prov 14:16; 15:19; 16:17.

Prov 14:16, “A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is arrogant and careless.”

So, we see that those who live in sin are trapped or gripped by it. It makes no difference who the person is or what he does. A man can be a king, yet a slave to his own sin. On the other hand, a slave can be free because he has sought Christ’s forgiveness and lives a godly life.

Therefore, through the intake and application of God’s Word, by means of humility within your soul, you have the prudence necessary, the wisdom necessary, the protection necessary, the armor necessary, Eph 6:13-18, to avoid the snares and thorns of sin inside of Satan’s cosmic system.

Remember that Humility:

  • Is recognition and respect for legitimate authority in life.
  • It is function under the Laws of Divine Establishment for both the believer and the unbeliever.
  • It is recognition of authority delegated by God in the Christian way of life. The Bible is the authority, and the spiritual gift of Pastor-Teacher is the communicator of that doctrine.
  • It is recognition of the authority of the Pastor-teacher to teach and communicate God’s Word to you.
  • It is recognition of the authority of the content of the message taught by the Pastor who communicates doctrine.
  • It is teachability which recognizes the Plan of God for your life.
  • It is Divine viewpoint thinking, which means that humility is related to grace orientation and occupation with Christ.
  • It is poise and courage when you are under pressure.
  • It is capacity for life, love, and happiness.
  • It is the basis for gratitude and appreciation in life.
  • It is the function of establishing right priorities in life.
  • It is the right function of self-determination and self-discipline in life related to God’s grace policy, right priorities, teachability, and self-determination related to spiritual growth.
  • It is making right decisions from a position of strength.
  • It is the recognition of failure in the Christian life and the willingness to recover through Rebound, 1 John 1:9.
  • It is the basis for flexibility in life, the basis for God molding a vessel of honor which glorifies Him.

Vs. 6

Prov 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

This is one of the more popular verses in the entire book of Proverbs. It is related to parents teaching their children to have humility, be prudent, and be wise as they teach them God’s Word and its magnificent principles and precepts.  This teaching is necessary so that the child can avoid the painful pitfall of falling into the thorns and snares of sin and Satan’s cosmic system.

In vs. 1, we are exhorted to have a good reputation; in vs. 2, to have good community relationships; in vs. 3, to have good avoidance of evil; in vs. 4, to have a good relationship with the Lord; in vs. 5, to have good in our soul by guarding it from sin through humility; and now in vs. 6, to have good training in the precepts of God.

This first thing we should note, is that this verse is not a guarantee that if you train your children in the Word and way of God that they will respond positively to it their entire lives. It is not a promise that every parent’s efforts to teach and guide children will be successful. But, it is a great encouragement that the probability of the child later relying upon God and His Word is greatly enhanced because of the parent’s efforts. At the same time, it is a warning that those who neglect this teaching have a better chance of having much trouble in their lives, i.e., self-induced misery.

This verse begins with “train up,” which is the Qal, (Active Voice), Imperative, (command or exhortation), Verb CHANAKH, חָנַךְ which typically means and is used for “to dedicate, inaugurate, initiate, or train.” It is used in the OT 5 times, in four verses, with three contexts:

  • Twice in Deut 20:5, for the dedication of a house.
  • Once each in 1 Kings 8:63, and 2 Chron 7:5, regarding the dedication of the Temple to God.
  • For training a child, Prov 22:6.

Therefore, in the other four usages outside of our verse it means, “dedicate a house or the Tabernacle, (which is the Lord’s house), to the Lord.”

Regarding the dedication of the Temple, the Noun is used similarly in Ezra 6:16f.; Neh 12:27-43, at the rebuilding of the Temple and the Walls of Jerusalem, with its many sacrifices and pomp. In this dedication, the purification process was intended to avert any evil influences from past events, and the processional circuit was to assure permanence for the future. The concluding sacrifices and feasting in the Temple expressed joy and thanksgiving that the work has come to fruition. As such, this exhorts parents or teachers to celebrate the occasion of a young man’s initiation into his adulthood status; his full station in life. By spending time, effort, and energy to celebrate such a step implies its importance and worth, and would encourage the young to maintain themselves in their new status of life. This is where the Bat and Bar Mitzvah originates from, as well as other cultural celebrations of the young becoming an adult. But the CHANAKH is much more than a simple celebration.

Principle:

Therefore, we see in “training up a child,” that we are dedicating him or her to the Lord, providing for future avoidance of evil, “thorns and snares,” in their lives, and providing for the child’s and parent’s thanksgiving with joy to the Lord.

We also see in Deut 20:5, the first usage of this word in the Bible, that the home of an individual was ritually dedicated to the Lord. In this, we see that a man was exempt from military service and warfare until after he had dedicated his house. This act represented the establishment of a new generation in the society as full members of adult society, which was a significant change of their status. A cognate noun HANIK is used in Gen 14:14, for Abraham’s men or servants who were trained for warfare.

Principle:

Therefore, we see that in, “training up a child,” we are educating them and preparing them for adulthood life, so that they can be productive members of adult society, as they enter into and are engaged in the spiritual warfare of the Angelic Conflict. This will help them to put on the full armor of God and be victorious. This may also be why our Lord spoke of the “guardian angels” of children in Mat 18:10. Although believers have a guardian angel their entire lives, Psa 91:11; Acts 12:15; Heb 1:14, their angel may guard them until they reach the age of accountability where they now are adults who can fend for themselves with the Full Armor of God, i.e., the Word of God.

This application is also seen in the usage of this word in ancient Arabic where it was used for, “to initiate, make accustom, or make experienced.” One such usage regarded the rubbing the gums of a newborn child with the juice of dates or with oil, to get them prepared for nursing, hence it represented “initiation.” Therefore, this proverb implies that the religious and moral initiation of the young be oriented from the beginning to counteract his inherent foolish ways stemming from his Old Sin Nature, (OSN). During the Church Age, this especially speaks of training the young in the “mystery doctrines for the Church Age,” so that they are capable of standing firm against the “flaming missiles of the evil one.”

CHANAKH is also the root for the Hanukkah celebration, which is the celebration of the rededication of the Temple in the times of the Maccabees, 1 Macc 4:36-59; 2 Macc 10:1-8; cf. John 10:22, that continues today, that was based on Solomon’s ceremony of dedication (CHANUKKAH) that extended over seven, (the number of spiritual perfection), days, 2 Chron 7:9; Cf. 1 Kings 8:63; Ezra 6:17. Therefore, we get the sense of “inauguration,” from these ceremonies.

Principle:

Therefore, we see that in, “training up a child,” we are inaugurating the child to walk in spiritual adulthood to perform Divine Good Production in spiritual perfection.

Child” is the Hebrew Noun NA’AR, נַעַר that can mean, “child, young man, or servant.” It is used extensively throughout the OT in all three applications. In most English versions of the Bible, it generally refers to social status rather than to age. This goes well with the context we noted above regrading “training,” and the dedication factor of entering into adult society.

Principle:

Therefore, we see that in, “training up a child,” we are taking a young or immature person, a new believer, and training them to be good servants of the Lord in spiritual adulthood.

Next, we have, “in the way he should go.” The Hebrew is AL PEH DEREK. PEH can mean, “mouth, opening or edge.” DEREK means, “way, manner, or custom.”

Principle:
Therefore, we see that in, “training up a child,” it is emphasizing his speech and the manner in which he uses it. It is emphasizing the avoidance of the sins of the tongue through wisdom and prudence, based on having humility of the soul through Bible Doctrine resident within the soul.

As we will see in the upcoming verses, speech that mocks in pride or arrogance is not the gracious speech that wins the king, vs. 10-11. Likewise, faithless words and lazy excuses will not please Yahweh, vs. 12-13. Those who turn from God’s way will be vulnerable to what is most dangerous of all, words of seduction, that are also symbolized by the mouth of the adulteress, a pit, a trap that destroys.

The way we speak says a great deal about the way we think, including what we think, especially about the rich and the poor as is the context of the beginning of this chapter. Therefore, if we are to watch our words, we must do more than look to see how our words affect the people we like to be with, people of similar social and economic status, we must see how they affect everyone, even the less fortunate.

Vs. 5, implicitly admonished the young to stay clear from the sinister road, the perverse travel, and its pair here in vs. 6, implicitly admonishes the educator, especially the parent, to start him on the right way to steer him clear of danger. In addition, as this chapter exhorts us, we must also recognize the power of words to educate others about decisions that affect the poor and to speak out for justice when necessary. In practical terms, this means not only speaking out for the needs of the least privileged members of society, but also teaching the coming generation to care about the concerns of others. If we can encourage a new generation to love generosity and justice, we have done our job well.

Rom 13:8-10, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9For this, ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 10Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

All of this emphasizes that more often than other categories of sin, the sins of the tongue lead us into the “thorns and snares” of sin inside of Satan’s cosmic system. Therefore, through proper education and training in the principles and precepts of God’s Word, these sins, with their subsequent problems, can and will be avoided by the spiritually mature individual. That is, the problems of self-induced misery can be avoided.

That is found in the second half of this passage that reads, “Even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

The Hebrew word for “depart” is the Qal, (Active Voice), Imperfect, (continuous action), of the Verb SUR, סוּר, that means, “to leave, deviate, turn aside, or go away.” With the Hebrew negative particle LO, it means he “will not” leave, deviate, turn aside, or go away from the teaching he received regarding the Word of God. In other words, the child who grows to spiritual adulthood will continually apply to his life the principles and precepts of God’s Word that he was taught in his spiritual youth-hood.

Principle:

Therefore, we see that in, “training up a child,” he will continually apply the Bible Doctrine he learned during his spiritual journey to adulthood.

Now, keep in mind, that all of this is also dependent on the child’s positive volition that continues to be positive throughout his adulthood years. This is not a guarantee, but a general precept of probability that the child will continue applying Bible Doctrine to his life later on. It is also an exhortation for parents, or those who have already obtained spiritual adulthood, to diligently train, educated, initiate, and inaugurate the child, or spiritually immature believers, in the ways of God by means of His Word.

So, we see that at the end of this present collection of Proverbs, Collection II, it places the spotlight on the youth’s learning once again, stressing the need for teaching. And, in the upcoming verse, vs. 15, we will also see the necessary correction of “discipline” that is needed for growth to spiritual adulthood. Likewise, in the next collection, Collection III, and then again in Collection V, we will see references to this training and correction that also speaks of the rod that drives folly away, for a beating is better than death, Prov 23:13; 29:15.

Prov 23:13, “Do not hold back discipline from the child, although you beat him with the rod, he will not die.”

Prov 29:15, “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.

As Ironside notes, “If they are taught to love the world, to crave its fashions and follies in childhood, they are almost certain to live for the world when they come to mature years. On the other hand, if they are properly instructed from the beginning as to the futility of living for the pleasures of this world, they are in little danger of reversing that judgment as they grow older. Parents need to remember it is not enough to tell their little ones of Jesus and His rejection or to warn them of the ways of the world; they must see to it that in their own lives they exemplify their instruction. This will count above all else in the training of the young. Little ones will observe our pretense and hypocrisy if we speak piously of separation from the world while demonstrating the spirit of the world in our dress, relationships in the home, and the friends we seek. We need not wonder then if they grow up to ignore our words of instruction while imitating what our lifestyle proclaimed to be the real object of our hearts. But where a holy, cheerful atmosphere pervades the home and godly admonition is coupled with godly living, parents can count on the Lord to keep their households following in the right way. See Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5).” (H.A. Ironside Expository Commentary – Proverbs).

Vs. 7

Prov 22:7, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.”

In vs. 1, we are exhorted to have a good reputation; in vs. 2, to have good community relationships; in vs. 3, to have good avoidance of evil; in vs. 4, to have a good relationship with the Lord; in vs. 5, to have good in our soul by guarding it from sin through humility; in vs. 6, to have good training in the precepts of God; and now in vs. 7, we are to have good management of our finances.

In strong contrast to the picture of equality in vs. 2, this proverb depicts life as it usually is. The rich rule over poor, with implication that only the rich have access to the power that money brings.

The word for “rules” is the Qal Imperfect for active future action of the Verb MASHAL, מָשַׁל that has two root meanings. The second root meaning is used here for, “to rule, govern, have dominion, etc.” The inherent power and authority one has. The first root meaning is “to speak a proverb.” In that context, we see that a proverb is typically a contrasting statement about two opposites in comparison. So, we see the comparison in this proverb between the rich and the poor, the lender and the borrower.

The only uniqueness to the English translation from the Hebrew in this verse is the word for “lender,” which in the Hebrew is simply ISH, אִישׁ that means, “a man.” The Hebrew uses the generic, whereas the English translation changes it for context purposes, to contrast with “borrower,” LAWAH, לָָוה in the Hiphil stem for causative action. Interestingly, LAWAH can also be translated “to join,” which complements the context of the borrower becoming a “slave or servant,” EBED, עֶבֶד to the lender.

Therefore, this proverb is giving us a warning about getting into too much debt. It goes along with the injunction in Rom 13:8 that we are to “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” If we heed this principle, we will escape the bondage of being a debtor.

We see that almost invariably, the rich lord their position of lender over the poor, except where grace intervenes to check the potential pride of the human heart. In Satan’s cosmic system, it is natural that the lender would consider himself superior to the borrower.

Even though we may view this passage as instruction for the poor borrower, it may in fact be a warning to the rich lender of the responsibility of power he may find himself with, cf. vs. 9, 16, Prov 18:23. Those in a position to lend money must also understand their relationship to their borrowers and God in light of the covenantal stipulations regarding lending and borrowing, cf. Prov 19:17.

Prov 19:17, “One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, and He will repay him for his good deed.”

This also tells us that borrowing can destroy one’s freedom by his neglect of this Divine principle, as it is far better to be in meager circumstances and dependent on God, than to have plenty but to know that it belongs to someone else.

Nothing can crush the spirit of a man like overwhelming debt, if he has any conscience about it at all. The Christian should have a great concern about getting into debt and flee from it at all costs, realizing that it is the effort of the enemy to undermine his peace and destroy his sense of dependence on the Lord.

In the ancient days, if someone could not pay off their debt, they, or their children, would be brought into slavery or servanthood to the lender, Ex 22:1-4; Deut 15:12-15; 2 Kings 4:1; Neh 5:1-5. Therefore, in the second half of this verse, it adds that those who borrow, whether by necessity or choice, voluntarily put themselves under the power of the rich. And, if we get into too much debt, we become a slave, working for the one who we are indebted to.

This proverb must be viewed in the perspective of the theology of Deuteronomy, which regards Israel’s ability to grant loans to the heathen as a sign of their God-given prosperity, Deut 28:12, and Israel’s need to borrow from them the absence of God’s blessing, Deut 28:44.

Yet, the Bible does not forbid making or taking out loans, Lev 25:35-36; Mat 5:42; Luke 6:35. However, financial and social bondage can be the result. Therefore, extreme caution is wise when incurring debt. And, since there were no banks in ancient Israel, borrowing was a personal arrangement between individuals or families, with relatively few covenantal constraints upon lenders, cf. Ex 22:25ff; Lev 25:36f; Deut 23:19f. Therefore, a borrower needed to consider carefully whether a particular lender might prove benevolent or tyrannical, even to the point of requiring him to sell his family or himself into slavery to repay the loan, Ex 21:2-7.

Therefore, if we are to be walking properly as servants unto the Lord, we cannot fulfill that mandate, if we are servants to another; the creditor / THE MAN!

Vs. 8

Prov 22:8, “He who sows iniquity will reap vanity, and the rod of his fury will perish.”

In vs. 1, we are exhorted to have a good reputation; in vs. 2, to have good community relationships; in vs. 3, to have good avoidance of evil; in vs. 4, to have a good relationship with the Lord; in vs. 5, to have good in our soul by guarding it from sin through humility; in vs. 6, to have good training in the precepts of God; in vs. 7, we are to have good management of our finances, and now in vs. 8, we are to have a good temperament wielding our authority.

Sow” is the Qal Active Verb ZARA, זָרַע that means “to sow or to bear seed.” The verb is used figuratively here for evil or immoral action, cf. Job 4:8; Prov. 22:8; Hosea 8:7.

Job 4:8, “According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity and those who sow trouble harvest it.”

Hosea 8:7, “For they sow the wind and they reap the whirlwind. The standing grain has no heads; it yields no grain. Should it yield, strangers would swallow it up.”

It can also be used figuratively for good moral action, Psa 97:11; Hosea 10:12.

Psa 97:11, “Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.” 

Hosea 10:12, “Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD until He comes to rain righteousness on you.”

Iniquity” is the Noun AWLAH, עַוְלָה that means, “wrongdoing, wickedness, injustice, or unrighteousness.” It occurs about thirty times in the OT, and the feminine noun, as here, is used to denote an action that is not morally or ethically right. It can refer to a violent deed of injustice, 2 Sam 3:34, when Joab murdered Abner. It can also refer to injustice in speech, for example, Job 13:7, “Will you speak what is unjust for God, and speak what is deceitful for Him?”

So, as we have noted throughout this chapter, this has context regarding speech, the handling of finances, treatment towards the poor, and involves crimes of a social, property, or commercial nature. Therefore, “sowing iniquity,” generally refers to walking in sin. And, the rest of this verse continues to warn us of the consequences of doing so.

“Will reap vanity,” is a compound word from the Qal Imperfect (future tense) QATSAR, קָצַר that means, “to reap, harvest, or be short,” and the noun AWEN, אָוֶן that means, “trouble, sorrow, wickedness, idolatry, iniquity, or evil.”

QATSAR, “reaping,” speaks both in the positive and negative sense figuratively, here the negative sense, cf. Hosea 10:13.

Hosea 10:13, “You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped injustice, you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your way, in your numerous warriors.”

Our verse tells us that sowing iniquity (sin or evil) does not produce a harvest of value.

Vanity” is not a good translation here in this compound word, because the second part is made up from the Noun AWEN that is generally used as a term for “sin or evil.” Elsewhere in this book, it means the abuse of power to harm and destroy, Prov 6:12, and it can be used for “deception, or nothingness,” where we get vanity from. But vanity does not quite cut it here.

It is also used in the Proverbs to acknowledge the generally observed truth that God blesses the righteous, but the wicked are followed by trouble, Prov 12:21; 21:15; 22:8.

Prov 12:21, “No harm befalls the righteous, but the wicked are filled with trouble.”

Prov 21:15, “The exercise of justice is joy for the righteous, but is terror to the workers of iniquity.”

Therefore, the main principle continues in our passage, where the wicked will not simply reap “vanity,” but instead they will reap even further “sin, evil, and trouble,” as they also sow it. As such, the unjust will reap the malevolence of abuse he gave to others.

The second half of this passage tells us, “the rod of his fury will perish.” The saying, “rod of his fury,” is from the Nouns SHEBET, שֵׁבֶט and EBRAH, עֶבְרָה.

SHEBET originally meaning, “rod, staff, stick, or piece of wood,” was broadened to metaphorically mean, “scepter or rod” which a ruler or master of a slave, held as a symbol of authority. The staff was also used as an instrument of discipline, Cf. Prov 13:24; 26:3; 29:15. Therefore, it symbolizes the authoritative power of the unjust oppressor and his powerful means to beat down the oppressed.

EBRAH, for “of his fury,” means, “wrath, outburst, anger, excess, etc.”  It reflects the idea of intense rage and is a title given to the proud, haughty, or arrogant individual, Prov 14:35. This word is also used for the “day of wrath” of the Lord, speaking both to the Lord’s current discipline on His people or children, and eschatologically of His second coming. In our passage, it is speaking of the emotional abuse of authority, be it a parent’s emotional anger towards his children, or the lending wealthy’s emotional outburst towards the poor borrower. It tells us that we are not to abuse our God given authority, and especially not to allow the emotional revolt of the soul to take over when we are dealing with others under our authority. And using “fury” here for wrath or anger tells us of mental attitude sins in emotional revolt of the soul that can lead to further sinful overt actions towards others.

Yet, if there is an emotional abuse of someone’s authority, he and it “will perish,” which is the Qal future Imperfect of KALAH, כָּלָה that means, “to cease, finish, exhaust, come to completion, come to an end, or be destroyed.” It speaks of God’s discipline towards the one who has emotional outbursts of anger in arrogance. So, Divine judgment or discipline is in view here. The verse warns the wicked that not only will their wickedness bring them to grief, but they will eventually lose the ability to injure others. They will lose their power and authority, which may also mean the resources that give them that authority. At the same time, this should comfort the righteous that the wicked will not always be oppressive.

So, we see that “sowing injustice” and “rod of fury,” depict the rich person as an unsympathetic tyrant exercising cruel misconduct toward a neighbor. And, “will reap vanity,” and “will perish,” tell us the tyrant’s iron rod will come to an end. That is, ironically, the unjust sowed a crop of injustice hoping to reap more than his investment, but the riches he gets in return are a delusion, for they will come to nothing; in the first half of this verse, he will lose his property, in the second half, his power and authority.

Divine justice demands that those who abuse their power will end in utter and eternal disappointment, cf. Prov 10:28; 11:7; 11:18, 19; 12:3; 13:9, 25; 21:12; 24:19-20; 28:22.

Therefore, vs. 8, points beyond this harsh reality to the Lord, who will end the wrong, and vs. 9, points to the generous, who remedy it immediately, and receive the Lord’s reward for doing so.

Vs. 9

Prov 22:9, “He who is generous will be blessed, for he gives some of his food to the poor.”

In vs. 1, we are exhorted to have a good reputation; in vs. 2, to have good community relationships; in vs. 3, to have good avoidance of evil; in vs. 4, to have a good relationship with the Lord; in vs. 5, to have good in our soul by guarding it from sin through humility; in vs. 6, to have good training in the precepts of God; in vs. 7, we are to have good management of our finances, in vs. 8, we are to have a good temperament wielding our authority, and now in vs. 9, we are to have goodness in our giving. This passage also speaks to those who are in authority, the rich, powerful, the lender, etc., as we will see.

This passage begins with, “He who is generous,” which is the third person singular Personal Pronoun HU, with the Adjective TOB for “good, useful, pleasant, or proper,” and the Noun AYIN that means, “eye, appearance, gleam or spring.” So, literally it means, “a good eye.” But, here it is used metaphorically for, “one who gives or is giving,” meaning one who is generous as the second half of this passage indicates. It is the contrast to the “evil eyed or envious man,” cf. Prov 23:6; 28:22. It is in contrast to the tyrant of vs. 8.

The reward for generosity is then given, “will be blessed,” which is the Pual Imperfect of the Verb BARAK, ‏בָּרַךְ‎ that means, “to bless or to praise.” The Pual stem is the intensive passive. It means he will be blessed abundantly.

This gracious action is continued in the second half of this verse, “for he gives,” KI NATHAN, “some of his food,” MIN LECHEM.

Then, we see the recipient of his generosity, “to the poor,” LE DAL. DAL can mean poor or weak, that is those without power and authority, as we will also see in vs. 16, 22.

Prov 22:16, “He who oppresses the poor to make more for himself, or who gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.”

Prov 22:22, “Do not rob the poor because he is poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate.”

Therefore, as we have seen, and see in this verse, our generosity is rewarded by being blessed, both by God, Prov 19:17, and by the objects of our charity.

Prov 19:17, “One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, and He will repay him for his good deed.”

Generosity is encouraged throughout Scripture. It grows out of understanding the person and nature of God and depending upon Him. The source of confidence is not what one has accumulated, but the foundation of one’s trust, cf. Mat 6:19-34; 2 Cor 9:7.

2 Cor 9:7, “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Interestingly, in the Septuagint, (the Greek translation of the OT), there is a passage between Prov 22:8 and 9, that many believe is the genesis for 2 Cor 9:7. It reads something like, “The Lord acts graciously (bestows a blessing) to the cheerful and giving man (cheerful giver). But, a worthless man works towards his own end.” “Towards his own end,” uses the Greek word SUNTELESEI, the word used for “come to an end” in vs. 8, where the Hebrew word is KALAH.

The tyrant out of his excess uses his power to exploit the weak and powerless, who cannot maintain their own life, but the generous person sacrificially shares his food to feed and sustain them. This generosity of the blessed entails his prior hard work and labor of his land, the harvesting of his crops, tending to his animals, and slaughtering them. From his hard work and labor, he has been blessed by God which he recognizes and subsequently, he blesses others from his bounty. As a result, the Lord, (from whom all blessings flow), rewards the generous from His auspicious powers to grant prolonged life, progeny, property, and power, cf. Prov 10:6-7; 11:24-26.

Prov 14:31, “He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, but he who is gracious to the needy honors Him.”

So, we see from these two verses that the greedy loses his property and his power, and the liberal participates in a cycle of endless enrichment. Instead of becoming a professional money-lender, enslaving the poor, these passages instructs us to give to the hapless poor generously, Prov 3:26-27; 11:25; 28:27; cf. Deut 15:9-10; Job 31:17; Psa 34:10; Isa 32:8; 58:7; Ezek 18:7, 16; Neh 5:16-18; Mat 25:31-46; Luke 14:13; 2 Cor 9:6-8; 1 Tim 6:17, 18.

Prov 3:26-27, “For the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught. 27Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.”

Prov 11:25, “The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered.”

Prov 28:27, “He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses.”

Luke 14:13, “But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.”

2 Cor 9:6-8, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.”

1 Tim 6:17-18, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. 18Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.”

Interestingly, the Septuagint also has an additional passage with vs. 9, that reads something like, “Victory and honor are obtained by the gift given, however the life is taken away from the acquirer / gainer.”

Therefore, these proverbs exhort us that blessing will be upon those who are concerned, kind, and generous towards others, especially those who are in need. The person who has a good or bountiful eye, i.e., is generous, will be blessed. And, as we have seen, that which we give to the poor, we are in essence giving that to the Lord Himself.

Vs. 10

Prov 22:10, “Drive out the scoffer, and contention will go out, even strife and dishonor will cease.”

In vs. 1, we are exhorted to have a good reputation; in vs. 2, to have good community relationships; in vs. 3, to have good avoidance of evil; in vs. 4, to have a good relationship with the Lord; in vs. 5, to have good in our soul by guarding it from sin through humility; in vs. 6, to have good training in the precepts of God; in vs. 7, we are to have good management of our finances, in vs. 8, we are to have a good temperament wielding our authority, in vs. 9, we are to have goodness in our giving; and now in vs. 10, we are to rightly drive out those who are abusing the legal system.

Like vs. 6, the condition of this synonymous parallelism expressed as a command, “drive out the scoffer,” is followed by the motivating result, “strife will cease.”

This verse begins with the words “drive out,” which are the Hebrew Verb GARASH, גָּרַשׁ that means, “drive out, cast out, expel, or banish.” It is in the Piel Imperative. The Piel stem is the intensive active and the Imperative is for a command. This is one of the few directive or imperatival proverbs, cf. Prov 22:24f. The same thought underlies, Prov 26:18f.

Drive out” denotes to interrupt forcibly an existing relationship in order to deprive those being chased away from a situation they cling to, cf. Gen. 3:24; 4:14; Exod. 23:29, 30; Josh. 24:18; Ps. 78:55. It means that we are to break relationship with those who are abusive to any system, especially the legal system, as we will see. This proverb does not advocate the suppression of conflict, only the illicit abuse of a system. Whereas many conflicts can be worked out with attention to proper detail and process, not all are due to abusiveness or revenge motivation. But when there is abuse, we are to take the appropriate matters in hand to drive out the abusers.

Next, we have the object of the command, “the scoffer,” which is the noun LEITS that means, “mocker or scoffer” that also can be called the foolish or arrogant. This term is used to indicate those who have disrespect for YHWH, His laws, and His Word, Prov 1:22; 3:34. It includes those who do not follow God’s laws of Divine establishment, the laws of the land, or the rules of a system or engagement. These people are to not be trusted and should be pushed out of power, along with your disassociation with them. God’s people are warned not to associate with them, Psa 1:1.

Psa 1:1, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!”

Scoffers or mockers have made a number of appearances toward the end of this collection, Prov 19:25; 20:1; 21:11, 24, but they, like folly, Prov 22:15, should not be accepted or tolerated, because mockers are said to be unable to learn from the warnings, reproof, or punishment of those who are wiser, Prov 9:7f; 13:1; 14:6; 15:12; 19:25. As Psa 1:1 and our verse indicate, the wise, (those with Bible Doctrine applied from their soul), are not to associate with them and are to drive them out of their presence, so that their negative mental attitude and sin towards the weak or poor and God does not rub off on them.

Since the mocker clings to feeding his ego by debunking and taking advantage of others, and shaming them, an authority must forcibly expel him. That authority can be higher powers like a king, as alluded to in the next verse, or in a system of election like we have in the United States, they can be elected out of office.

As we have noted above, those who act proudly are also called scoffers, Prov 21:24, and they are an abomination to all, Prov 24:9. They will eventually be brought to nothing and utterly consumed, Prov 19:29; Isa 29:20. In addition, wine is also called a mocker, and those who become deceived by it are not wise, Prov 20:1.

And, as our verse also indicates, a good way to remove “contention” from a group is to evict the scoffer. That is noted in the phrase, “and contention will go out,” which the Qal Imperfect verb YATSA, יָצָא for, “to go out,” with the future tense impact of the Imperfect for “will go out,” and the Noun MADON, מָדוֹן that means “dispute, contention, strife.” This is the benefit of “running them out of town.” The contention and other negative things they bring to a society or relationship will be removed as they are removed. It is the concept of “removing the one bad apple so that the others do not rot too.”

The Proverbs speak of those who spread strife, Prov 6:14, 19; 16:28, and those who stir up strife, Prov 10:12; 15:18; 28:25; 29:22, as being foolish and headed for judgment. Therefore, if we continue to associate with them and leave them in our midst, we too will be negatively affected by their judgement or discipline.

Prov 29:22, “An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression.”

Prov 15:18, “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.”

Prov 28:25, “An arrogant man stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the LORD will prosper.”

These passages remind us of the man from vs. 8, who is the hot tempered, arrogant lender who wields the “rod of his fury.” Therefore, the contentious scoffer we are to drive out, or not get involved with, is the immoral lender / rich man who is abusing his power and authority. When we do, things will calm down and harmony will come back to the community. Therefore, in this second half, it personifies “contention” as a twin that departs with the evicted “mocker.”

Bringing peace and harmony back to the community and between individuals, is noted in the last phrase, “even strife and dishonor will cease.” In the Hebrew, it starts with “and it will cease,” which is the Qal Imperfect of SHABATH, שָׁבַת that means, “to cease, to stop, to come to a standstill, or to rest.” We noted this word in Prov 18:18, “The cast lot puts an end to strife and decides between the mighty ones.” In addition, this word is where the “Sabbath” rest comes from. So, we see the ceasing of or resting of hostilities within the community that returns peace and harmony back to you and the community.

The thing that will “cease” or be “put to an end,” includes first “strife,” which is not the typical word for “strife” that is MADON. It is actually the Hebrew Noun DIYN, דִּין‎ that means, “a case, legal claim, or lawsuit.” It is a general term referring to a “legal matter.” Proverbs often reminds us of our responsibility to stand up for the “cause or rights” of the weak and poor, Prov 29:7; 31:5, 8. When we do, our verse tells us the contention in the form of legal matters will cease. This verse has the assumption that the immoral and abusive rich and powerful lenders are the ones bringing the legal contention into the society. Yet, God desires none of it to be amongst His people.

The other thing we see that will cease is “dishonor,” which is the Noun QALON, קָלוֹן‎ that means, “shame, dishonor, disgrace, etc.” Its root indicates the lowering of a person’s or the community’s social status, Isa 22:18. It refers to a feeling and condition of shame, of being put on display in mockery, Job 10:15; or of being dishonored, Psa 83:16. The characteristics of fools make a show of dishonor; it clings to them, Prov 3:35. Yet, a wise man conducts himself circumspectly and prudently, avoiding careless pride that leads to disgrace, Prov 11:2.

Prov 11:2, “When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom.”

“If in a company, a circle of friends, a society (LXX ἔκβαλε ἐκ συνεδρίου), a wicked man is found who treats religious questions without respect, moral questions in a frivolous way, serious things jestingly, and in his scornful spirit, his passion for witticism, his love of anecdote, places himself above the duty of showing reverence, veneration, and respect, there will arise ceaseless contentions and conflicts.” (Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 6: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon.)

As such, the righteous, especially those in leadership positions like a king, as the context of our next verse indicates, are commanded to remove this person from society. As such, leaders or kings should evict mockers because they disrupt the community’s peace, but are to welcome the pure because they promote peace.

As you know, mockery alienates friends and destroys relationships, especially since it is often malevolent. The only cure is to root it out. It is better to have peace without whatever the scornful person brings to the relationship, than to have those benefits but ruined fellowship, Prov 26:20ff. And, as the Proverbs tell us, if the mocker were teachable, we could endure his antics temporarily in the hope of improvement, but since he is not, Prov 9:7f, he must be banished to protect the community from his destructive effects. Then, there will be rest from strife and disgrace; of the strife which such a one brings forth, and the disgrace which he brings on the society.

So, we see that there is not be an abusive use of the legal system of the rich and powerful over the weak and poor, or vice versa. If there is abuse, the one producing it, with its subsequent turmoil, conflicts, and dishonor, should be removed from the process and society. But the one who acts righteously, should find favor within the system and those running it, as our next verse indicates.

Vs. 11

Prov 22:11, “He who loves purity of heart and whose speech is gracious, the king is his friend.”

In vs. 1, we are exhorted to have a good reputation; in vs. 2, to have good community relationships; in vs. 3, to have good avoidance of evil; in vs. 4, to have a good relationship with the Lord; in vs. 5, to have good in our soul by guarding it from sin through humility; in vs. 6, to have good training in the precepts of God; in vs. 7, we are to have good management of our finances, in vs. 8, we are to have a good temperament wielding our authority, in vs. 9, we are to have goodness in our giving; in vs. 10, we are to rightly drive out those who are abusing the legal system; and now in vs. 11, we are to have good honesty and integrity in our speech inside our legal system, which finds favor with those who run it.

Here, we are given some advice on how to win friends and influence people, particularly with important people like the king.

First off, there is quite a disparity between the Hebrew and the Greek of the Septuagint for this verse. The Septuagint reads “The Lord loves holy hearts (the pure in heart), acceptable to Him are all the blameless; [the] king rules with [his] lips.” Some believe the original text for this verse is beyond recovery. The disparity of this passage is between the emphases being on a person, as the Hebrew reads, versus God, as the Septuagint reads. For our study, we will stick to the Hebrew version.

Even though there is little agreement among commentators on which translation, (the Hebrew or Greek) is more accurate, the general sense may parallel, Prov 16:13, and commend honest and gracious speech as the best policy in court and, by implication, throughout life.

Prov 16:13, “Righteous lips are the delight of kings, and he who speaks right is loved.” Cf. Prov 15:1.

Our verse, as many others do in Proverbs, commends gracious and truthful words or speech, especially in a court of law, when for the Israelites they were applying and interpreting God’s Law. Therefore, we also see application for the use and interpretation of God’s Word for the Church Age believer.

The Hebrew of this verse is fairly straight forward compared to the English translations, without a lot of poetical license. It reads, AHAB, “he who loves,” TAHOR, “purity or clean,” LEB, “of heart,” CHEN, “grace or gracious” SAPHAH, “lips or speech,” REA, “friend or relative,” MELEK, “king.”

Here we have the heart coming first and then speech. This is the right order, as when we speak in truth and honesty, it is a reflection of what is in the heart (right lobe) of the soul. Just as when we speak in lies and corruption, it reflects the lie and corruption within our souls.

It also tells us that those whose heart is pure, love the pureness of heart in others. It means they love to see honesty and integrity played out in the lives of others. They love to see the application of Bible Doctrine in the lives of others.

Therefore, heart purity, which belongs to the regenerated person, not the natural man, cf. Mat 12:33f., is given first to protect holy and righteous speech from being a mere façade that is in the heart of the liar, hater, maligner, scoffer, or mocker, cf. Prov 26:25.

Prov 26:25, “When he speaks graciously, do not believe him, for there are seven abominations in his heart.”

It is the pure in heart who see and know God. And, those who are pure in heart will be blessed by God, Mat 5:8; Psa 24:4-5.

Mat 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

Psa 24:4-5, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully. 5He shall receive a blessing from the LORD And righteousness from the God of his salvation.”

Those who truly are pure / righteous in heart will demonstrate it by obedience to God’s Word, Col 4:6, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt.” Yet, a bitter, acrimonious, and fault-finding tongue does not belong to the pure-hearted man of God, but is generally the evidence that one is far from being right with Him.

So, we see that the person who practices wise and good speech, who is right and accurate in apply the law, who functions in righteousness with integrity applying God’s Word, is not driven out like the mocker, vs. 10, but is welcomed by the king. The king would want a friend or counselor with qualities such as these.

In the context of the rest of this chapter, if the rod of discipline drives folly far away from the youth’s “heart,” Prov 22:15, it does so to nurture the love of a “pure heart” that will win over the king, ruler, or leaders, especially within the court system.

Here the king’s or ruler’s love for purity, honesty, integrity, righteousness, etc., is like that of YHWH, who watches over knowledge, Prov 22:12. Therefore, the discipline of correction will save the youth from the path of the wicked, Prov 22:5, and make a way for responsible service to king and community.

Therefore, we see from Prov 22:10-11, speech that mocks in pride is not the gracious speech that wins the king. And, as we will see, faithless words and lazy excuses will not please YHWH, Prov 22:12-13. Those who turn from God’s way will be vulnerable to what is most dangerous of all, words of seduction, symbolized throughout Proverbs by the mouth of the adulteress, a pit, thorns and snares, and a trap that destroys. The way we speak also says a great deal about the way we think, especially about the people in our community, the riches or powerful and the poor or weak.

“The person who loves a pure heart, who has honest intentions, and has gracious, considerate speech will find a friendly response from the king. The king will be his friend. Good kings respect integrity and character. A person of integrity and character is a valuable asset to the ruler who is looking for people who have wisdom, who have the best interest of the king at heart, and can be a help to him.” (Mattoon’s Treasures from Proverbs, Volume 2).

We are to become people who love purity of heart and who can speak graciously at the same time, because effective speech without integrity makes one a manipulative hypocrite; integrity without effective speech makes one’s influence ineffective.

Vs. 12

Prov 22:12, “The eyes of the LORD preserve knowledge, but He overthrows the words of the treacherous man.”

In vs. 1, we are exhorted to have a good reputation; in vs. 2, to have good community relationships; in vs. 3, to have good avoidance of evil; in vs. 4, to have a good relationship with the Lord; in vs. 5, to have good in our soul by guarding it from sin through humility; in vs. 6, to have good training in the precepts of God; in vs. 7, we are to have good management of our finances, in vs. 8, we are to have a good temperament wielding our authority, in vs. 9, we are to have goodness in our giving; in vs. 10, we are to rightly drive out those who are abusing the legal system; in vs. 11, we are to have good honesty and integrity in our heart and speech, especially inside our legal system, which finds favor with those who run it; and now in vs. 12, The Lord desires truth in the court system.

As in vs. 9, we have AYIN for “eyes,” but this time it is not speaking of the graciousness in man, but the omniscience “of the Lord,” YHWH, that “preserves,” NATSAR, “knowledge,” DA’ATH.

The anthropomorphism, “eyes of the Lord” refers to the Omniscience, (all knowing) of God, Prov 15:3.

Prov 15:3, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, watching the evil and the good.”

This is one of the attributes of God’s essence. He is all knowing. And with His omniscience, He preserves “knowledge,” DA’ATH, דַּעַת that means “knowledge, skill, or perception.” The noun is used in the sense of discernment, of being able to understand circumstances correctly.

In the context of vs. 10-11, that continues here, it is speaking about the knowledge of a situation that has been brought before a court of law. Therefore, it is referring to “the truth” of a situation, especially the truthfulness of a witness of a crime who has knowledge of it. The context carries forward from vs. 10-11, of the court of law and politics. So, we understand that this “knowledge” is the truth of a situation that has occurred. And, to rightly decide a case, to uphold the law, and to uphold justice, the truth or knowledge of the situation must be made known.

We also see in this section that God’s omniscience has an impact on knowledge or the truth in that it “preserves” it. “Preserve,” is the Verb NATSAR, נָצַר that means, “to guard, to keep watch over, to observe, to preserve, etc.” Here, it is in the Qal Perfect for a completed action by God. It goes along with the omniscience of God, which is absolute and eternal. In other words, God has known the truth of a situation from eternity past. And the truth is the truth, whether the truth of a situation is made known to man or not.

Preserving knowledge or the truth means that we may be able to get away with something before man, but we never get away with it before God, because He knows the absolute truth of every situation, and it cannot be changed.

This verse says, “The omniscience of the Lord guards truth,” in the sense of “the truth is the truth,” and it cannot be changed.

Interestingly, NATSAR is also used in Scripture to refer to keeping speech under control, Psa 34:13; 141:3, which is also the context in our passage in that in a court of law, witnesses are summoned and asked to tell the truth. Yet, if that witnessed is bribed or blackmailed to tell a lie, the truth is perverted. That is the topic of the second half of this passage.

Therefore, given the context of a courtroom, D. Winton Thomas suggests a change of meaning for DA”ATH here from “knowledge” to “lawsuit” based on an Arabic cognate, (“A Note on ‏דַּעַה‎ in Proverbs 22:12,” JTS NS 14 [1963]: 93-94), as quoted in the “Expositor’s Bible Commentary”). But, we will keep it as “knowledge” with the understanding of a “truthful witness in a court of law.”

Prov 5:2, “That you may observe discretion and your lips may reserve knowledge (truth).”

We have also seen in Prov 1:7, that “the Fear of YHWH is the beginning of knowledge.” When we have the truth, we have an intimate experience with the Lord, which paves the way for knowledge in the moral realm. The mark of the righteous is that they are characterized by having DAʿATH, Prov 14:18.

Prov 14:18, “The naive inherit foolishness, but the sensible are crowned with knowledge.”

Since “knowledge” derives from the Lord, Prov 2:5f., His eyes guard what belongs to Him. To protect his knowledge he subverts, Prov 13:6, the words, cf. Prov 10:19, of the treacherous and brings them to a dead end, so that His truth alone endures.

Prov 13:6, “Righteousness guards the one whose way is blameless, but wickedness subverts the sinner.”

Prov 10:19, “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”

In the second half of this passage we have, “But He overthrows the words of the treacherous man.”

But He overthrows” is the Piel, (intensive active), Imperfect, (habitual or customary continuous action), of the Article WA and the Verb SALAPH, סָלַף‎ that means “to twist, ruin, distort, pervert, subvert, overturn, etc.”

Most of the time, this word is used is in regard to the wicked who distort, twist, or pervert the Law, Word, and ways of God. It is used for those who pervert justice, as God warns them to not do things like take a bribe that will distort justice, Ex 23:8; Deut 16:16; Prov 13:6; 19:3.

Ex 23:8, “You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just.”

Therefore, in the context of vs. 10-11, we see that God is absolutely and continuously turning it around on them; ruining their perversions of justice, so that they do not revel in the fruits of their wicked labor. As such, the Lord will overturn a seemingly prosperous fool in his treachery and turn his way to ruin, Prov 21:12.

Prov 21:12, “The righteous one considers the house of the wicked, turning the wicked to ruin.”

The thing God is turning around is “the words of the treacherous man,” which is the Noun DAVAR, דָּבָר‎ that means, “word; matter, event or affair,” and the Verb BAGAD, בָּגַד‎ that means, “to act deceitfully, faithlessly, treacherously; to be traitorous, to act unfaithfully, or to betray.”

It conveys the concept of a person acting in an unstable or unfaithful manner with reference to an existing established regulation, for example, a contractual, covenantal, or marital commitment. In other words, they are breaking the law. It is used to give the sense that a person has dishonored or intends to dishonor an agreement; in this case, an agreement with God and society to tell the truth about a situation.

BAGAD shows us a vivid contrast between the act of the wicked in their deceitful lying and YHWH’s trustworthiness in preserving knowledge / truth.

So, we see that a bribe undermines the words of the innocent in a trail and subverts a just cause, so God watches over the plans of the human heart and subverts lying words. Overall, The Lord ensures that truth, and not deception, succeeds.

Prov 2:22, “But the wicked will be cut off from the land and the treacherous will be uprooted from it.” 

Prov 11:3, “The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them.”

The false words of the unfaithful will accomplish nothing. The Lord Himself will overthrow them. Error cannot always prosper. It may seem to thrive for the moment, but it will be destroyed eventually.

God keeps the evil which is done in His eyes, and hinders its success. He “frustrates” the words of the “traitor,” but He keeps “watch over knowledge.” Here knowledge equates to truth!!! And, the Lord acts to vindicate the truth. By asserting He subverts treacherous words, vs. 12b, it forms a transition to the treacherous words of the sluggard, vs. 13, and unchaste wives, vs. 14.

Vs. 13

Prov 22:13, “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside; I will be killed in the streets!’”

We have seen in vs. 10-12, and will in vs. 15, pertinent moral instruction, a theme of this unit. The contrast between gracious lips, vs. 11b, and treacherous words, vs. 12b, is exemplified on the negative side in the speech of the sluggard, vs. 13, and unchaste women, vs. 14, that brings to prominence once again the role the sluggard and harlot have had in both Collection I and II, Prov 6:6-11; 2:16-19; 5:3-6; 6:24-25; 7:5-27.

Here, the lazy person makes absurd excuses for not working or participating in society. This verse humorously portrays the sluggard as not going out because he might be eaten by a lion in the streets, cf. Prov 26:13.

Sluggard,” is the Hebrew Adjective ATSEL, עָצֵל used for a Noun here that means, “slow, idle, lazy, sluggish, useless, or slothful.” It is synonymous with the less used word REMIYAH used in Prov 10:4; 12:24, 27; 19:15.

It represents lazy people who always fail because of laziness that becomes moral failure, Prov 6:6, 9. It is primarily used in the Wisdom literature of the OT for lazy individuals and indolent behavioral patterns.

These types crave for things within their souls, yet they get nothing, Prov 13:4, primarily because they take no initiative in life, Prov 19:24; 26:15, do not do their job or tasks on time, Prov 20:24, and will not work, Prov 21:25.

In our verse, we see that they create imaginary excuses so that they do not have to work or tend to their societal responsibilities, Prov. 22:13, and later we will see that their wealth and health deteriorate as a result of not even taking care of their own needs, Prov 24:30-34, yet, they consider themselves wise, Prov 26:13-16. And finally, they irritate those who employ them because of their lack of production, Prov 10:26, “As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes.”

In our verse, the sluggard uses his words to avoid the responsibilities he has in life. “Says,” is the Verb AMAR, אָמַר‎ in the Qal Perfect that means, “to say, to call, or to think.” In our verse, it has the meaning of what he thinks, presented as the spoken words that detail what he is thinking. It pictures the excuses he makes to convince himself that certain things and dangers are lurking outside, so as to avoid doing what is necessary in life.

In this case, the sluggard is deceiving himself into thinking “‘There is a lion (ARI) outside (BE CHUTS); I will be killed (RATSAH) in (BE) the streets (TAWEK RECHOB, in the middle of the square)!’”

RATSAH, means, “to murder, slay or kill.” Here it is in the Niphal (passive) Imperfect (future). Elsewhere it denotes taking innocent human life by another human being either intentionally, murder, or unintentionally, manslaughter, Ex 20:13; Num 35:6, 11, 16, 30. In fact, the Septuagint changes it to “murderers in the street,” to form a better parallelism, possibly because RATSAH is used only of humans in the Bible. Yet, here, it is uniquely used of an animal, probably as a hyperbole and/or a metonymy.

This excuse making sluggard is seen again in Prov 26:13, where there he says, “the young lion is in the road,” and “a loin is in the open square.” It represents excuse making in emotional revolt of the soul to avoid certain situations in life. In that verse, the sluggard repeats himself. In our verse, he explains his excuse in terms of the dread of losing his life.

By absurdly claiming there is a lion in the street that will kill him, he excuses himself from leaving the comforts of his home and his free meals, which others have provided, to venture out into world to perform the hard work that builds a community. Where no dangers or difficulties exist, he imagines them. Where they really are, he exaggerates them to such a degree that they appear to be insurmountable. Any excuse, no matter how ridiculous, serves his purpose to avoid doing what is necessary and right in life.

As my old High School football coach use to say, “Excuses are like rear-ends, everyone has one and they all stink.” Although I have toned down the actual language he used. As such, there is no excuse that truly excuses you from performing the normal things of life. No excuse excuses you from walking in righteousness inside the plan of God for your life. Therefore, the way we speak says a great deal about the way we think; we are not to make excuses that excuse us from life.

But unfortunately, we see from this passage that frivolous excuses satisfy the indolent man’s conscience. And, the irony is that laziness impoverishes and ultimately destroys itself, Prov 10:4; 20:4; 21:25-26, a lion is not necessary.

Prov 10:4, “Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.

Prov 20:4, “The sluggard does not plow after the autumn, so he begs during the harvest and has nothing.  

Prov 21:25-26, “The desire of the sluggard puts him to death, for his hands refuse to work; 26All day long he is craving, while the righteous gives and does not hold back.”

In the application of our verse in Chapter 22, we see the sluggard making excuses as to why he does not have to participate in society, especially inside the legal system to bring the truth to light. In our passage, the Hebrew says, TAWEK RECHOB, “in the middle of the square,” which was an open area near the gates of the city where legal matters where heard and decided. So, this sluggard may be afraid that he will lose in his or someone else’s trial, so he makes an excuse as to why he should not participate.

The assumption here is that truth and justice will not prevail as a result of the sluggard’s avoidance of the situation. A principle is, if you do not stand up for and participate in the truth, the lie will prevail along with injustice.

With the other theme of wealth and poverty, the poverty of the sluggard is used to illustrate the truth that choices have consequences. The purpose is not to describe the origins of all poverty but rather to warn against a life of folly that can lead to poverty. Neither the poor nor the rich are idealized in this chapter, because both stand as equals before their maker, vs. 2. Both can hear the call to wisdom and fear of YHWH, and both can choose to shut their ears to it. Poverty and wealth are extreme situations of life that can lead people away from God, Prov 30:7-9.

Prov 30:7-9, “Two things I asked of You, Do not refuse me before I die: 8Keep deception and lies far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, 9That I not be full and deny You and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God.”

The sluggard is represented here as finding fantastic and preposterous excuses to demonstrate that no idea is too odd or fantastic to him to keep him off welfare. And, the fact is, his life and the community are not in danger from his phantom lion in the streets but from his lazy life-style.

Sluggards also use fear as an excuse for further laziness. They will do anything to avoid doing anything, even proclaiming danger where there is none. People who are gripped by laziness will not attempt to achieve any kind of goals because of their fears. Likewise, people who are gripped by fear will not dare to try to achieve anything in life because of what might fantastically happen to them. As such, they fear the lions of failure, difficulty, getting sick, the opinions of others, etc., etc., etc. The list is endless. God knows about our fears. So, we must always remember the Lord enables us to overcome our fears so that we may serve and live our lives for Him, 2 Tim 1:7.

2 Tim 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, (nervousness, fearfulness, shyness, etc.), but of power and love and discipline.”

The one who approaches life in the strength of faith finds the lions have been rendered powerless to destroy him. Contrast the slothful man of this verse, with Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, one of David’s mighty men, 2 Sam 23:20, who “killed a loin in a snowy pit.”

As such, from a spiritual sense, we could add that this individual constantly makes excuses as to why he does not have to go to church or learn and apply God’s Word in his life. He makes excuses or “fools himself” into thinking that he does not have to serve God, he does not have to worship God, and / or he does not have to apply His Word to his life. This excuse making individual always has something else in his mind that is more important than performing in his relationship with God.

This excuse making is very subtle. He many times will not think he is outright avoiding and rejecting God by his thoughts or actions, and many times will not even think those thoughts directly. But, by the subtlety of making other things more important, even to the point of life and death issues, he places those things above his relationship with God without even realizing it. Therefore, the excuse making sluggard is one full of self-deception that results in scar tissue upon the soul that leads to spiritual blindness, or black out of the soul that is vanity, Eph 4:17-19. And ironically, the sluggard acts like a prophet, that he may palliate, (mitigate the intensity, excuse things that are bad, or alleviate the guilt of) his slothfulness.

The Sluggard will have many problems.

  1. As Prov 6:6, 9 told us, they will always fail in the spiritual life, because their laziness results in moral failure.
  2. Prov 13:4 showed us that their souls want nothing in terms of Bible Doctrine, and therefore they get nothing.
  3. In Prov 19:24 we saw that because they take no initiative to learn God’s Word, they will not fulfill God’s Plan for their lives, Prov 20:4.
  4. They will not “do their job” as professional Christian soldiers, ambassadors, and priest in the spiritual life, Prov 21:25.
  5. They always create imaginary excuses for why they cannot do this or that, or why they did not do this or that for God, Prov 22:13.
  6. Their spiritual prosperity and physical health will deteriorate, Prov 24:30.
  7. Due to the arrogance within their soul, they consider themselves wise or a spiritual giant, Prov 26:13-16, when in fact they are not.

In addition, from the context of this chapter, in this satire that depicts a sluggard industrious enough to concoct a far-fetched story in hopes of avoiding life, we see that although few real excuses are as wild or transparent as this one, it reminds us that YHWH can tell whether our thoughts and words come from knowledge or deception, vs. 12.

So, we have seen that speech that mocks in pride is not the gracious speech that wins the king, vs. 10-11; likewise, faithless words and lazy excuses will not please YHWH, vs. 12-13. Those who turn from God’s way will be vulnerable to what is most dangerous of all, words of seduction, which is the theme of our next verse, symbolized by the mouth of the adulteress, a pit, a trap that destroys. Therefore, these two proverbs exemplify two kinds of words by the treacherous; that of the sluggard, vs. 13, and of the harlot, vs. 14. The sluggard will be tempted to find easy money and the harlot offers easy sex.

As such, we see that the way we speak says a great deal about the way we think, and we are not to make excuses that excuse us from life.

Vs. 14

Prov 22:14, “The mouth of an adulteress is a deep pit; he who is cursed of the LORD will fall into it.

We have noted the deceptions of the adulteress woman previously in Proverbs and we will see her again, Prov 2:10-16; 5:3-6, 20; 6:24-26; 7:4-5; 23:27-28.

Prov 5:3-6, “For the lips of an adulteress drip honey and smoother than oil is her speech; 4But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. 5Her feet go down to death, her steps take hold of Sheol. 6She does not ponder the path of life; her ways are unstable, she does not know it.”

The first nine chapters of Proverbs repeatedly warn against the seductively flattering words of the strange woman, Prov 2:16; 5:3; 6:24; 7:5, 13-21, which are here likened to a “deep pit.” Prov 23:27, also calls the prostitute herself a deep pit.

As a standalone passage, our verse warns that sexual licentiousness, which appears to be purely self-indulgent, is actually a judgment of God upon those who are under His curse, cf. Psa 81:11-12; Rom. 1:24.

Rom 1:24, “Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.”

Yet, in the context of this chapter, the courtroom scene envisioned, with the wealthy and powerful compared to the poor and powerless, this verse gives us further imagery of that scene with a warning regarding it.
Adulteress” also called “strange woman,” is the Noun ZAR from the Hebrew Verb ZUR, זוּר, which means, “foreigner, alien, different, or unlawful.” It is in the feminine gender and is plural, so we know it is speaking of women. It is used several times in Proverbs for the adulterous woman, Prov 2:16; 5:3, 20; 7:5; 22:14.

This femme fatale, who loomed so large in Collection I, is again represented as a huntress waiting to trap her prey, Prov 6:26; 21:23, especially the youth who is under the power of youthful lusts, 2 Tim 2:22.

The Noun ZONAH is used in Proverbs for the “harlot or prostitute” that is also considered to be a strange woman, Prov 5:20; 6:26; 23:27.

Prov 23:27-28, “For a harlot (ZONAH) is a deep pit and an adulterous woman (NAKHERI) is a narrow well. 28Surely she lurks as a robber, and increases the faithless among men.”

The Adjective ZARAH and its synonym NAKHERI, “foreign or strange,”  Prov 5:20; 6:24; 7:5; 20:16; 23:27, designate a woman who has deserted her place in society. It is a woman who does not uphold the Law of God in her life.

From all of these passages, we see that this woman appears as a specific type of woman, clearly described. She walks the streets and attempts to seduce young men; she is dangerous and totally untrustworthy, for instead of life and happiness she brings disgrace and death.

In addition, Solomon further warned about the adulteress woman in Eccl 7:26, “And I discovered more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets, whose hands are chains. One who is pleasing to God will escape from her, but the sinner will be captured by her.”

In addition, we see in Scripture that Israel, when it rebelled against God, was called an adulteress, Hosea 3:1, cf. Jer 3:20.

PEH is used here for “mouth,” meaning the speech of the adulterous woman. “Deep pit” is used here and in Prov 23:27, for the alluring tragedy that flows from her mouth. It is the Hebrew Adjective AMUQQA from the root Verb AMOQ, עָמֹק that means, “to be deep or mysterious,” and is joined with the Noun SHUCHAH, שׁוּחָה that means, “pit or pitfall.” Sometimes, SHUCHAH is used as the “pit” for trapping animals. A deep pit connotes danger and death, and refers to that which once it has fallen on someone, he cannot get out from it without assistance. AMOQ is used to add emphasis on the destructive nature the adulterous woman has on the young man. As such, the words of the harlot, (as is the harlot herself), are considered a dangerous and deep pit.

Therefore, the kisses and seductive, deceptive words of an immoral woman are described here as a deep pit or trap. Her advances and words conceal a trap in which her suitors become ensnared. She lures her victims with her flattery, propositions, and promise of reward.

Unlike the sluggard’s fantasy of a man-eating lion roaming the city streets, these harlots are very real and deadly predators in the streets that we are warned to avoid at all costs. By way of analogy and context in this verse, these harlots are those who are trying to convince witnesses or even non-witnesses to a crime to lie when they appear before the judge. With the promise of reward to ensue, we could say they are bribing, blackmailing, or extorting these witnesses. Extortion

On the humorous side, as the sluggard was lyin’ about the lion from self-preservation motivation to avoid the courtroom, this individual is lured by the mouth of the seductress into the lyin’ inside the courtroom from self-indulgent motivation. He is tempted to lie by his lust and promise of reward.

In the second half of this verse we see that “he who is cursed of the LORD will fall into it.”

“Cursed” is the Verb ZA’AM, זָעַם that means, “to be indignant, enraged, to inveigh against, (speak out angrily against), denounce, or curse.” The root literally means, “to foam at the mouth.” It is in the Qal Participle Passive, which means they continuously receive the action of being cursed. It refers to either the action or the state of receiving indignation. Such indignation can take the form of a curse, a denunciation, anger, or an accusation. This word may have originally meant “to snap at in anger or to scold strongly.” Usually the verbs associated with the noun ZA’AM have a clear judgment aspect to them. This word was also used of someone when they would violate the terms of a contract, especially an oral contract.

Some think this is the Qal Active meaning those who reject the Lord will fall into the adulteresses trap. Although that may be the case, here it is in the Passive meaning they receive the curse or judgment.

Here, it is “the Lord,” YHWH, יְהָוה‎ who will bring about the curse, because ultimately, YHWH is the righteous Judge in the usages of this verb in, Ezek 21:31; 22:31; Zeph 3:8; Psa 69:24. His rage occurs with the violation of the Covenant. It speaks of a legal environment where enforcement of the curse is also expected by the hearers. And, the Lord’s ZA’AM, (curse), is used for human pain and suffering as a result of His judgment, Jer 15:17; Psa 38:3; 69:24; 78:49; 102:10.

Therefore, we see that this “curse” is really the sentencing of a penalty under the law, when one is found guilty of breaking the law.

Psa 7:11, “God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day.” Cf. Isa 66:14.

“Will fall into it,” is actually, “will fall there.” It is the Qal Imperfect Verb NAPHAL, נָפַל‎, along with the Adverb SHAM, ‏שָׁם‎.

NAPHAL has a wide range of meanings from a simple physical fall to the violence of death in battle. Here it is speaking of the resultant curse that comes from being persuaded to lie or give false testimony in a courtroom. That means the individual actually perjures himself and is then guilty of his own crime of which he will suffer the penalty thereof. Cf. Lev 6:1-7; Deut 19:18-19.

Deut 19:18-19, “And the judges shall investigate thoroughly; and if the witness is a false witness and he has accused his brother falsely, 19then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you.”

Many interpret this as falling into the adulteresses temptations, which is step one, but step two is falling under the curse of the righteous Judge, God Himself, in having a penalty fall on them for lying in the courtroom.

As you know, perjury is one of the Seven Abominable Sins against God, Prov 6:19, and is something we are warned against many times in Proverbs and in the NT, cf. Prov 12:17; 14:5; 19:5, 9; 21:28; 25:18; Mat 15:19, 18; Rom 13:9.

Prov 25:18, “Like a club and a sword and a sharp arrow is a man who bears false witness against his neighbor.”

Prov 19:5, “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will not escape.”

Prov 19:9, “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will perish.”

So, we see that the “strange or adulterous woman” here is anyone who tempts another to lie, especially in the court of law. As Israel is called an “adulterer” numerous times in the OT for breaking God’s Law, so too the perjurer / fool falls into the pit of the adulterer and will suffer the judgment required by God. The imagery both here and in Prov 23:28, represents the man who falls into the adulteresses clutches, as stripped of everything he has, even of his very life, cf. Prov 5:10-11; 6:32-35; 7:23.

In the spiritual realm, the adulterer is anyone teaching false doctrines, including those with the intent of leading others into those falsehoods. The pit is the lies of deception they are preaching. Those who are gullible of them will suffer the judgment of the sin, human good, or evil they have willingly been led into. To succumb to the adulteress, or to any such folly, is both a sin and its punishment, as God many times makes our own sin our punishment. Prov 21:28, “A false witness will perish, but the man who listens to the truth will speak forever.”

And, as we know, the Word of God is designed to protect us from the seduction and flattery of strange lips, Prov 2:10-16; 7:4-5. That is why our next verse speaks of discipline being necessary to remove any temptations of sin that may enter our souls.

Vs. 15

Prov 22:15, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him.”

In this Proverb, we will see the significance and importance of teaching God’s Word / Bible Doctrine to those who are unbelievers and immature believers, so that the sins of the tongue, such as lying in a court of law, are far removed from the mentality of their soul and their speech.

As we will see in this passage, various words from vs. 5, “far”, vs. 6, teaching the “NA’AR,” and vs. 8, “rod,” link this proverb with others on training and judgment.

“Foolishness,” is the Feminine Noun IWWELETH, אִוֶּלֶת that indicates “folly or foolishness.” It is a cognate of EWEIL, “fool’, and is a synonym to PETHI, “fool, inexperienced, simple,” vs. 3, and the Adjective NAVAL, Prov 17:7, 17. Of its 24 usages in the OT, it is used 22 times in the book of Proverbs, and twice in the Psalms, Psa 38:5; 69:5. Many of its usages include the concept of various kinds of moral degeneracy. In the context of our verse, it represents primarily perjury and lying, but also includes slander, gossip, maligning, etc.; the various aspects of verbal sins called “sins of the tongue.”

Prov 17:7, “Excellent speech is not fitting for a fool, much less are lying lips to a prince.”

The folly or foolishness of the fool is often characterized as something that is evident to all. The only ones they are fooling are themselves. Whereas, the prudent person is characterized by silent reflection and thoughtful speech, the fool blurts out his folly (lies) to everyone, Prov 12:23. Again, prudent people act out of knowledge, (Bible Doctrine resident within the soul), but fools expose their perjury, Prov 13:16.

Prov 13:16, “Every prudent man acts with knowledge, but a fool displays folly.”

This “foolishness” or propensity to lie, is “bound up,” the Qal Participle Passive of QASHAR, קָשַׁר that can mean to “bind or tie,” or to “conspire.” In fact, in 1 Sam 22:8; 2 Sam 15:31; 2 Kings 14:19; 15:30; Amos 7:10, it is used for “to conspire against,” or “to be in conspiracy against.” In these applications, the “to conspire” means to either outright lie or withhold information, which results in the truth not being known.

Amos 7:10, “Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent word to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, ‘Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel; the land is unable to endure all his words’.”

2 Sam 15:31, “Now someone told David, saying, ‘Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.’ And David said, ‘O LORD, I pray, make the counsel of Ahithophel foolishness’.”

In the book of Proverbs, the other three times QASHAR is used is in regard to “binding” Bible Doctrine to your soul, Prov 3:3; 6:21; 7:3. Therefore, because the fool did not or does not “bind” God’s Word to his soul, instead the foolishness of the “sins of the tongue” are bound to him. As you know, this begins with negative volition towards God’s Word that results in mental attitude sins.

That is noted in the next few words, “in the heart of Child,” which in the Hebrew is the compound word BELEB-AN’AR. It is made up of the Preposition BE, “in,” the Noun LEB, לֵב, “heart,” (the right lobe of the souls where we store and retain information), and the Noun NA’AR, נַעַר, “child, young man, or servant.”

We noted, NA’AR in vs. 6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” There we spoke about educating the young in the ways of God and dedicating them to a life of holy service unto Him.

Here, we see the folly that is part of the mentality of the young, (we could even say, “immature believer’), because the old sin nature (OSN) is the main force in the mentality of their soul, cf. Eph 2:3.

Eph 2:3, “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”

But, if they are taught and learn God’s Word, there is a counter force now working in their soul to negate the negative influence of their OSN. That is why they need to be trained in the Word of God, because foolishness, the temptations of the OSN, is ruling their soul.

Therefore, whether “folly” refers primarily to a heart that is naive (inexperienced) or rebellious, it is endemic to human beings and must be remedied. This remedy is seen in the second half of this verse, “The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.”

“The rod of discipline,” is first the Hebrew Noun SHEBET, “staff, stick, scepter, tribe,” that we noted in vs. 8, regarding the “sower of iniquity.” There, it symbolized the authoritative power of the unjust oppressor and his powerful means to beat down the oppressed. In our verse, it speaks to the authoritative power that “discipline” has to beat down a sinful volition that can lead to “sins of the tongue.” “Rod” does not refer only to corporal punishment, but is a metonymy for any form of discipline.

Discipline” is the Noun MUSAR, מוּסָר‎ that can mean, “instruction, chastisement, discipline, or warning.” This word is used in most of the chapters in Proverbs. It occurs most frequently of the “discipline, correction, or instruction” of wisdom, as a technical term for instruction in the school of wisdom, Prov 1:2, 7. Instruction is characterized by reverence or fear of the Lord, Prov 15:33.

Prov 1:2, “To know wisdom and instruction, To discern the sayings of understanding.”

Prov 23:12, “Apply your heart to discipline and your ears to words of knowledge.”

Prov 23:23, “Buy truth, and do not sell it, get wisdom and instruction and understanding.”

And remember, the only antidote or corrective to sin is discipline wisely administered, Prov 25:12, out of love and concern for others ultimate well-being, Prov 19:18. Also, since not all children or immature believers are equally rebellious or contentious, parents or those instructing them, need discretion to discipline each as best fits the individual and the situation.

Prov 25:12, “Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear.”

We also see in Proverbs, those who hate God’s discipline ignore his commandments and stray far from them, Psa 50:17; Job 36:10; Prov 1:7; 16:22; 19:27.

Prov 1:7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Prov 19:27, “Cease listening, my son, to discipline, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.”

Prov 16:22, “Understanding is a fountain of life to one who has it, but the discipline of fools is folly.”

In Prov 16:22, we also see that the discipline of the “fool,” (one without doctrine in their life), is folly, meaning that any discipline in their life is actually wasted because they do not learn from it. Rather than living the superabundant life of the spiritually mature believer, the fool’s life is wasted not just in the foolishness of their mode of operation, but also being constantly disciplined by God. Instead of being in a place of blessing with impact, they are in a place of discipline and wasted opportunities.

Yet, in our verse, discipline is recommended as an antidote to foolish behavior, (or lying, as is the context of this chapter). Proverbs speaks specifically of parental (or the mature ones) instruction as something to be closely followed, Prov 1:8; 4:1; 13:1, and failure to listen to their instruction results in ignorance, Prov 19:27ff.

As such, the fool is the one who rejects their teaching, instruction, and discipline, Prov 15:5, and those mature ones who spare “the rod,” (authoritative teaching and instruction in the Word of God), actually hate the unbelieving and believing immature ones. But, the one who provides instruction and discipline to the immature ones loves them, Prov 13:24, and, the “rod of discipline” will remove foolishness from the child.

Prov 15:5, “A fool rejects his father’s discipline, but he who regards reproof is sensible.”

Prov 13:24, “He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.”

Our proverb “spare the rod and spoil the child” was probably derived from Proverbs, cf. Prov 10:13; 13:24; 22:15; 23:13-14; 29:15.

Other similar ancient proverbs include the Egyptian proverbs, “Boys have ears on their back sides,” and “He who is not flogged is not educated.”

The reason the “rod of discipline” is so important, is that it “will remove it (foolishness / lying) far from him.”

Will remove it far from him” is the causative Hiphil Imperfect of the Verb RACHAQ, רָחַק with the Pronominal Preposition MIN in the Masculine, to indicate “from, out of, away from, etc.” In the Masculine, it refers back to the “immature one,” therefore we add, “him.”

RACHAQ, רָחַק means, “to be distant, to be far away, to become far away, to be separated from.” In the Hiphil stem, it has the causative force of “to remove,” and the Imperfect speaks of the future occurrence of this removal. Therefore, it indicates that lying and sins of the tongue, as other sins, become a long way off, distant, and far removed when God’s Word is applied in the soul. 

Prov 4:24, “Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you.”

Prov 22:5, “Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse; he who guards himself will be far from them.”

Prov 30:8, “Keep deception and lies far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion.”

In combining the context of vs.10 and 15, it suggests that one can forgive a young person’s folly, but if it is not driven out (like a mocker), and removed far away from him, it can turn to evil, especially inside the legal system. When that happens, it is not only the young who suffer but also the family and the whole community, especially its poor or weak.

In the context of this chapter, if the rod of discipline drives folly far away from the youth’s heart, it does so to nurture the love of a “pure heart” that will win over the king, as we noted in vs. 11. The king’s love for purity is like that of YHWH, who watches over knowledge, vs. 12. In sum, the discipline of correction will save the youth from the path of the wicked, vs. 5, and make a way for responsible service to king and community, vs. 11.

Likewise, it was the “immature one” who fell into the trap of the adulterous woman in Chapter 7, and the NA’AR now appears in this proverb that follows hers, vs. 14. Therefore, we see that foolish choices in one area influence others, and only those who stray from YHWH’s way will be susceptible to her seductive danger. Therefore, better is the rod used for discipline, training, and instruction than a trap of sin and death, vs. 5, cf. Prov 13:24; 23:13-14; 29:15.

Therefore, the youth’s stubborn insolence and his immoral propensity for laziness, vs. 13, lust, vs. 14, and greed vs. 16, is tightly bound up within his constitution, but the father’s disciplining rod breaks folly’s hold and frees him.

Vs. 16

Prov 22:16, “He who oppresses the poor to make more for himself or who gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.

This is the final verse in Collection II of Proverbs that includes chapters 10:1 – 22:16. Here, we have a final warning that goes back to the beginning of this chapter that speaks about desiring a good reputation through equal treatment for everyone, the rich and powerful, as well as for the poor and weak, within the society. This verse is the exact opposite of the exhortation in vs.1, to desire a “good reputation” more than obtaining wealth, silver, and gold. In this verse, we see the individual who desires the riches of this world and will deal treacherously with others in order to obtain it.

Right off the bat, we can say that this verse is speaking about the anti-Robin Hood, who takes from the poor and gives to the rich. But unfortunately for the anti-Robin Hood, he will not end up with fame and fortune. Instead, he will end in poverty and misery.

There are two forms of abuse in this passage.

  • The first form of abuse is towards the poor or powerless. It begins with “He who oppresses,” which is the Qal Active Participle of the Verb ASHAQ, עָשַׁק that means, “to oppress, to wrong, to extort, to abuse.” The base meaning of this word is “to oppress” by the abuse or manipulation of power in burdening a perceived lesser class. At times, it has the strong overtone of “extortion” or “taking by extortion,” e.g., “deceitfully gotten” in Lev 6:2-4. With additional meanings of “extort” and “abuse,” once again we are taken into the courtroom, the legal system or even the political world, where powerful sinful people are able to illicitly take advantage of the less powerful and poor.

Prov 14:31, “He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, but he who is gracious to the needy honors Him.”

Prov 28:3, “A poor man who oppresses the lowly is like a driving rain which leaves no food.”

In God’s displeasure with the nation Israel, he exclaimed in Ezek 22:12, “‘In you they have taken bribes to shed blood; you have taken interest and profits, and you have injured your neighbors for gain by oppression (Noun OSHEQ- oppression, extortion), and you have forgotten Me,’ declares the Lord GOD.”

Ezek 22:29, “The people of the land have practiced oppression (ASHAQ – they have extorted) and committed robbery, and they have wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed (extorted) the sojourner without justice.”

As you may know, oppression and extortion were forbidden by the Lord according to the Mosaic Law. If an individual were found guilty of extorting money from a fellow Israelite, the convicted extorter had to make full restitution plus an additional one-fifth of the amount to the injured party, Lev 6:4f. Psalms warns us to not try to get rich through unjust means like oppression or robbery, Psa 62:10. Later, the psalmist expressed frustration to God because wicked oppressors were allowed to prosper, Psa 73:8. The Lord also forewarned rebellious Israel that because she resorted to oppression, her walls would be smashed to pieces like a potter’s vessel, Isa. 30:12ff; cf. Jer. 6:6; 22:7.

With these passages and many others, God has made the wise way known to us and has also made wisdom’s rewards clear in the form of strong contrasting choices. Therefore, we can choose to value a good name or reputation above riches, vs. 1, or we can value riches above good relationships, vs. 16. Nevertheless, we cannot claim we do not know that one is better than the other. Just as YHWH wants us to become students of wisdom so we can teach it to others, He also sets the example for a teacher by laying out clear choices and consequences, which we have seen throughout this chapter.

As you also know, Satan wants us all to get in line with his way of thinking and doing, the way of his cosmic system that is wrought with sin, human good, and evil. The way his cosmic system works is to “choose power, riches, things, and people to be occupied with, and if there is any free time left over when you get home from the office, work on your reputation.”

But God says, “In all things keep in mind the reputation you are building, one that is full of Divine Good Production from the application of My Word in your life.” Be occupied with Jesus Christ while on the job, at home, in the neighborhood, etc., and not just while you are at church. The oppressor is occupied with the things of this world, yet the true Robin Hood is concerned about the welfare of others and his walk with Jesus Christ.

Back in our verse, the one’s to be exploited are once again, the “poor,” DAL, דַּל that means, “poor or weak,” that we noted in vs. 9, 16. Yet, we know that the poor are not to be exploited in commerce, in the legal system, in society, or forgotten in their need.

The reason the rich and powerful take advantage of and oppress or extort the poor and weak is, “to make more for himself,” LE RABAH LE. RABAH, רָבָה‎ means “to be numerous or to be great,” it speaks to an increase in quantity. In the Hiphil Infinitive construct, it is the causal purpose of the sentence; to cause to get more… more power, more money, more authority, more prestige, etc. And, as our passage shows, many times to get more means you give less or not at all. LE meaning, “to or towards,” means these individuals are abusing the law to make more come “to or towards” themselves, that is to make more for themselves.

  • The second form of abuse is noted in the phrase, “or who gives to the rich,” which is the Qal active Participle of NATHAN, נָתַן, “to give, allow, or put,” that we noted in vs. 9, with the Preposition LE, and the pronominal use of the Adjective ASHIR, עָשִׁיר that means, “rich man,” which we noted in vs. 2, 7.

As we have noted above, Scripture does not portray riches as wrong or sinful, but it does place more responsibility upon the wealthy. In that, the rich were prohibited from oppressing the poor. Here we have a rich or powerful man giving only to the rich or powerful, and by comparison, are not giving to the poor as they should. It says that their giving is only to those who are able to reciprocate their favor with a like or greater favor, so that the original giver increases his wealth, power, or prestige. It is an illicit “Quid pro quo,” something for something scenario, or a favor for a favor.

When someone’s charitable nature is only towards those that can reciprocate with a favor, it is evil and sinful in God’s eyes. Charitable giving should be without strings attached. It should be done with impersonal and unconditional love, as all of our deeds should be. Yet, if they are not done with motivational virtue AGAPE love, there is a warning given here.

“Will only come to poverty.” This is the warning from God. It is the compound word AK-LEMAHSOR, which is made up of the Adverb AK, “only or surely,” the Preposition LE, “to, towards, come to,” and the Noun MACHSOR, מַחְסוֹר‎ that means, “want, lack, or poverty.” It is derived from the Verb, CHASER that means, “to decrease, to lack, or to be needy.”

It is used in Prov 11:24; 24:34; 28:7, for “want,” Prov 6:11; 14:23; 21:15, for “poverty,” and Prov 21:17, for a “poor man,”

Prov 11:24, “There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want.”

Prov 14:23, “In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” 

Prov 21:17, “He who loves pleasure will become a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not become rich.”

Prov 28:27, “He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses.”

Taking advantage of the weakness of the poor in order to aggrandize or enrich oneself, and giving generously to the rich for the same purpose, are both wrong and will fail, cf. Prov 14:24. Both actions are considered the folly of fools.

Prov 14:24, “The crown of the wise is their riches, but the folly of fools is foolishness.”

The juxtaposition of the one who takes from the poor, who need it, with the one who gives to the rich, who do not need it, points to the folly of his thinking and actions.

The converse and same warning in our verse is also stated in Prov 11:24, “There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want.”

“This failure is not because this behavior is not good business sense, but because it violates the standards of the Covenant and sets a course against that required by God (Deut. 15:7-11; cf. Prov. 22:22f).” (Complete Biblical Library Commentary.)

Therefore, in this last phrase, we see that the oppressor and self-aggrandizer unexpectedly suffers loss, cf. Luke 14:12.

Luke 14:12, “And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, ‘When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment’.”

Our Lord also taught that to give to the weak, poor, and needy would result in greater blessings, yet, the self-aggrandizer would lose out on these things, Luke 14:13-14.

Luke 14:14, “And you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

The giver to the rich only is unrighteous, for when the righteous give, they enrich others and are enriched themselves by God, Prov 11:25; 21:26; 22:9; not by the recipient(s) of their gift. 

Prov 11:25, “The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered.”

This chapter makes clear that the paradoxical outcome for oppressor and self-aggrandizer is due to the “eyes of the Lord,” who protects his moral supreme power to enforce His righteousness, Prov 14:31; 15:25; 17:5; 22:12, 23. The punishment for extortion and bribery is poverty.

Prov 22:12, “The eyes of the LORD preserve knowledge, but He overthrows the (words, matter, event or affair) of the treacherous man.” 

Prov 14:31, “He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, but he who is gracious to the needy honors Him.”

Prov 22:23, “For the LORD will plead their case and take the life of those who rob them.”

So the principle is, it is foolish to seek to accumulate wealth by oppressing the needy or to endeavor to gain the favor of the rich by giving them gifts or bribing them. Both courses lead to want instead of increase. An operator who first takes advantage of the poor to make himself rich and then uses that wealth to buy more illegitimate influence; that cycle will be broken. Oppressors will wake up to find they have become one of the groups they have oppressed!

He who practices either of these habits, may seem to prosper and flourish for the moment, Psa 73:7-10; but his end will show the truth of God’s Word. He will not find the happiness he sought, and he will at last be obliged to admit that his purpose has been utterly defeated because of the iniquity of his heart, cf. James 5.

Psa 73:7-9, “Their eye bulges from fatness; the imaginations of their heart run riot. 8They mock and wickedly speak of oppression; they speak from on high. 9They have set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue parades through the earth.”

This verse concludes Collection II, and is also a bridge that introduces a topic to be resumed after the next prologue, “Do not plunder the poor,” vs. 22. The prologue starts with vs. 17, and ends with vs. 21. Then, the topic is resumed in vs. 22-23.

Conclusion

These proverbs are designed to persuade individuals to learn wisdom and love its characteristics, though the goal of such persuasion is interrelatedness and relationship, not isolation. Therefore, the wise person is a connected one.

In vs. 1, we were exhorted to have a good reputation; in vs. 2, to have good community relationships; in vs. 3, to have good avoidance of evil; in vs. 4, to have a good relationship with the Lord; in vs. 5, to have good in our soul by guarding it from sin through humility; in vs. 6, to have good training in the precepts of God; in vs. 7, we are to have good management of our finances, in vs. 8, we are to have a good temperament wielding our authority, in vs. 9, we are to have goodness in our giving; in vs. 10, we are to rightly drive out those who are abusing the legal system; in vs. 11, we are to have honesty and integrity in our heart and speech, especially inside our legal system; in vs. 12, the Lord desires truth in the court system; in vs. 13, we are not to avoid our civic duty with fanciful lies; in vs. 14, we are not to be seduced to falsify evidence; in vs. 15, we are to have righteousness and integrity in our heart due to being disciplined in the Word of God; in vs. 16, we are not to oppress the poor or entice the rich with our gifts.

Therefore, with the theme of this section in vs. 1, “desire a good reputation more than wealth,” we accomplish that by abiding by the principles laid forth in vs.2-16. So ends Collection II, and we now begin Collection III.

Next, we begin what is called Collection III of Solomon I, of the Book of Proverbs that encompasses chapters 22:17 – 24:22. Recalling the makeup of this Book:

Solomon I:

Collection I, chapters 1-9;

Collection II, chapters 10:1-22:16,

Collection III, chapters 22:17-24:22

Collection IV chapters 24:23-24:34

Solomon II:

Collection V, chapters 25-29

The Sayings of Agur Son of Jakeh:

Collection VI, chapter 30

The Sayings of Lemuel:

Collection VII, chapter 31

In Collection III, we have the “Thirty sayings of the wise,” Prov 22:17 – 24:22. It is broken down as follows:

A.) Introduction to the 30 sayings; the prologue, Prov 22:17-21.

B.) The 30 sayings, Prov 22:22 – 24:22.

Thirty, being the number of Divine perfect order, symbolizes a complete and perfect teaching. And, when we have this word in our souls, we will operate in God’s perfect divine order within society and in our relationship with Him.

In Chapter 22, we have now concluded the proverbs encouraging godly living, Prov 16:1-22:16, and will begin the proverbs concerning various practices, Prov 22:17-24:34, in Collections III and IV.

Most of these sayings are hortatory, beginning with a prohibition, followed by an argument, reason or motive. For example, these verses warn against injustice, Prov 22:22f, 28; 23:10ff; 24:11f, 15f, 23-26, 28f, excessive living, Prov 23:19ff, 29-35, sexual immorality, Prov 23:26ff, response to the wicked, Prov 23:1ff, 6ff, 17f; 24:1f, 10, 17-22, and laziness, Prov 22:29; 24:30-34; all topics addressed in the rest of the Book. The positive commands are like those of the prologue, commanding attention to the teacher’s instruction.

Specifically, in Chapter 22, we have seen:

  • How the wise discipline themselves to follow God in everything, vs. 1-16.

And now, in the second half of Chapter 22, we will note:

  • Wisdom tells us when to speak and when to be silent, vs. 17-21.
  • The wise ones care for and protect the poor, vs. 22-29.

Therefore, in the introductory prologue to the “Thirty sayings,” we have the 2nd main message, “Wisdom tells us when to speak and when to be silent,” vs. 17-21.

In the second half of this chapter, we have “6 Sayings,” vs. 17-21; 22-23; 24-25; 26-27; 28; 29. We will study each “saying” in its entirety, rather than verse by verse, as we have done above.

Saying 1, The Prologue:

The first “Saying” is the prologue that has three main points:

  • Motiving the son to hear / learn, vs. 17-18.
  • Theological motivation; trust in the Lord, vs. 19.
  • The Father’s purpose for teaching these things, vs. 20-21.

Prov 22:17-21, “Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, and apply your mind to my knowledge; 18For it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, that they may be ready on your lips. 19So that your trust may be in the LORD, I have taught you today, even you. 20Have I not written to you excellent things of counsels and knowledge, 21To make you know the certainty of the words of truth that you may correctly answer him who sent you?”

Interestingly, there is a relationship of this section of Proverbs to the Wisdom of Amenemope, an ancient Egyptian text of wisdom, as well as other ancient wisdom texts. When introducing this text, Bruce Waltke, who at the time was Professor of Old Testament, Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia, gave the following parallelism to ancient Egyptian writings.

“The external evidence of the Egyptian Instruction of Amenemope (ca. 1186-1069 b.c.) confirms the internal evidence that the Thirty Sayings of the Wise is a distinct anthology of wisdom sayings. Most scholars believe that the Thirty Sayings of the Wise shows a creative use of Amenemope. The structural model for this collection, “Do I not write for you thirty sayings,” derives from the last chapter of Amenemope (27:6): “Look to these thirty chapters.” But, its material dependence on Amenemope extends only for the first eleven sayings (22:16-23:11). The next saying introduced by the educational saying at 23:12 that separates it and the next unit of the Thirty Sayings is common to the Aramaic Ahiqar. The saying against debt surety finds thematic analogy in the Aramaic and Akkadian wisdom tradition, but not in the Egyptian. The lampooning saying against drunkenness (23:29-35) descends from the Egyptian tradition, but not Amenemope.” (New International Commentary)

He goes on to write:

Literary Structure and Arrangement

“The literary structure of the Egyptian sboyet genre includes three elements: (a) a title—“the beginning of the instruction of X which he composed for his son Y”; (b) a prose or poetic introduction—the setting forth of the details of why the instruction is given; and (c) the contents—the linking together of admonitions and sayings in mutually independent sections of very diverse nature.

Aside from the omission of the first section, this is precisely the structure exhibited in the “Thirty Sayings of the Wise” (Prov 22:17–24:22). The motive behind the collection is given in 22:17–21 which is followed by the diverse collection of admonitions in 22:22–24:22.

Compare, for example, the first two chapters of the Instruction of Amen-em-Ope with Proverbs 22:17–23.

Chapter 1

He says:

Give your ears, hear the sayings,
It profits to put them in your heart,
Woe to him who neglects them!

Let them rest in the casket of your belly,
May they be bolted in your heart;

When there rises a whirlwind of words,
They’ll be a mooring post for your tongue.

If you make your life with these in your heart,
You will find it a success;

You will find my words a storehouse for life,
Your being will prosper upon earth.

Chapter 2

Beware of robbing a wretch,

Of attacking a cripple….

If those who divided the Bible into its chapters had been aware of these literary forms and structures found in the pagan sapiential texts, they no doubt would have made a chapter break between Proverbs 22:16 and 22:17.”

The Theology of the Book of Proverbs

“The Egyptian sages seem to have discerned values in Ma’at similar to those affirmed in Israel for “wisdom.” Since the pioneering efforts of Budge and Gressmann,50 it has been clear that the Instruction of Amen-em-Ope most closely approximates the teachings of the Book of Proverbs, especially the “Thirty Sayings of the Wise” in Proverbs 22:17–24:22.

Simpson called attention to the following parallels, among many others, between the Hebrew and Egyptian works.

“Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man,
do not associate with one easily angered,
or you may learn his ways
and get yourself ensnared” (Prov 22:24–25, NIV).
“Do not associate to thyself a passionate man,
nor approach him for conversation.
Leap not to cleave to that [fellow],
lest a terror carry thee away” (Amen. 11:13–15; 13:8–9).

“Do not wear yourself out to get rich;
have the wisdom to show restraint.
Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone,
for they will surely sprout wings
and fly off to the sky like an eagle” (Prov 23:4–5, NIV).

“Labor not to seek increase

        [perchance] they have made themselves wings like geese,
they have flown to heaven” (Amen. 9:14–10:4).

These individual sayings not only agree in form and sometimes even in wording, but when viewed collectively they share the same ethical and social ideals. Lichtheim summarizes the ideal man, “the silent man,” in this Egyptian text in this way:

[He] is content with a humble position and a minimal amount of material possessions. His chief characteristic is modesty. He is self-controlled, quiet, and kind toward people, and he is humble before God. This ideal man is indeed not a perfect man, for perfection is now viewed as belonging only to God.

Here again space does not permit discussion of a much-debated issue related to these sapiential texts, namely, how this striking relationship between the Bible and these pagan texts is to be accounted for. Suffice it to say here that Oesterley seems to have the best of the arguments in his contention that both go back to a common stock of international, pan-oriental, proverbial literature.”

Now, for our understanding in application to the Christian way of life, we begin with:

1.) Motivating the Son to Hear, vs. 17-18.

Vs. 17.

Prov 22:17, “Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, and apply your mind (heart) to my knowledge.”

Reminding us of Prov 5:1, this calls attention that equates the teacher’s words with the teachings of “the wise.” Just as when the Pastor-Teacher teaches God’s Word, He is teaching the mind of Jesus Christ, the wisdom of God for life.

Once again we are instructed to learn God’s Word, which is true wisdom so that we can apply it to our daily lives. It reminds us of the admonition repeated seven times in Rev 2 and 3, “He that has an ear, let him hear…”

The Word “incline” is the Hebrew Verb NATAH that means, “to spread out, to turn aside, to bend down,”  in the causative active Hiphil Imperative for a command. It means, “to pay close attention to something.” Stop what you are or have been doing and pay attention to this thing, (i.e., the Word of God). In that, we are to use the “ear gate,” OZEN, “ear,” to “listen to,” SHAMA, in the Qal Imperative for another command, to take in the “words of the wise,” DAVAR CHAKAM, “the speech or sayings of the wise,” i.e., the wisdom of God’s Word, Bible Doctrine. This may have been the heading for this section, “The sayings of the wise.”

In our learning, we are to “apply” SHITH, ourselves to think about what the Word of God says, contemplate it in the mentality of our souls, as we compare it to other things we already know about God’s Word and the way the world works. We should not be strictly mechanical or robotic in our intake and application of Bible Doctrine. We are to be highly interactive with it, based on our own personal and unique situations of life.

Mind” or better translated “heart,” which is LEB or heart of your soul, the right lobe of your soul, tells us of the application of God’s Word. The heart is where we store and apply the “knowledge,” DA’ATH, of God’s Word.

The parallels, “the sayings of the wise” and “to my knowledge,” indicate that Solomon is adopting and adapting the wisdom of his sage-peers. And, we see that the ear, as the exterior organ that receives the information, and the heart, as the interior organ that directs the whole body with it, Prov 4:20-27; cf. Prov 2:2, tell us of the outer and inner workings of God’s Word through our souls.

Vs. 18

Prov 22:18, “For it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, that they may be ready on your lips.”

Here, we are taught that the intake and application of Bible Doctrine will be “pleasant or lovely,” the Adjective NA’IM, to us and in our lives. Yet, there is a caveat, “if you keep them within you.” The Hebrew reads, “when you are observing them,” with the Qal Imperfect of the Verb SHAMAR that means, “to observe, guard, protect, or keep.” It means to not allow the thoughts or temptations of the world or the Old Sin Nature steal God’s Word away from you. Instead, we are to hold on to the Word of God in our souls, guard it, and protect it, so that we can apply it to our lives. It emphasizes memorizing these teachings so that they are in us forever. And, when you do, it will be pleasant or lovely to you and your life.

Within you,” is the Hebrew BETEN that means, “stomach, womb, or inner parts.” Interestingly, “in your stomach,” may be a shortened form of the Egyptianism, “in the casket of your heart.” It means, your inner most being, your soul, your spirit, your heart, etc. So, it means, keep it in your heart and it will be pleasant within your soul and spirit.

The psalmist reflected on the pleasantness of the atmosphere in a society when brothers dwell together in unity, Psa 133:1. Likewise, singing praises to God is not only a good thing to do, but is also pleasant and beautiful Psa 135:3; 147:1. Therefore, when you take in, guard, and apply God’s Word in your life, it will lead to having a great relationship with those around you and with God.

“That they may be ready on your lips,” uses the passive Niphal Imperfect of the verb KUN to mean, “they will be prepared or established.” The Imperfect says that this is an ongoing situation. The Passive says we receive this action as result of having God’s Word in our soul. In other words, you will always be ready to apply God’s Word in your speech, “lips,” SAPHAH, no matter what the situation is. You will always be ready to give an account of the faith that is in, 1 Peter 3:15.

1 Peter 3:15, “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”

The Hebrew also uses the Adverb YACHDAW in this verse that means, “together or at the same time.” It is derived from YACHAD that means, “to be united.” This emphasizes that our inner most being, the mentality of our soul, will be in sync with the words that come forth from our lips. The two will be united and there will be harmony between our thoughts and words; which sometimes can be in great conflict.  Yet, with the power of God’s Word resident within our souls and the filling of God the Holy Spirit, there will be unity within us.

We see then, that when God’s Word has been internalized, i.e., made part of our way of thinking, then it will be pleasing to our souls. Therefore, these verses outline three stages of wise living:

  • Listening, vs. 17a.
  • Learning, vs. 17b-18a.
  • Using or applying, vs. 18b.

The third stage, speaking wisely and truthfully, vs. 18b; cf. vs. 21, is the reason for both listening and learning, and grows out of the trust in the Lord that results from this knowledge, as noted in the next verse.

As we have seen in this saying, the imagery of organs associated with the learning process, ear, heart, stomach, and lips, bind the admonition together to accept and memorize God’s Word with motivation, vs. 18. Therefore, the learning process progresses from the outward ear that acquires God’s Word, vs. 17a, to the interior heart set upon the acquisition of God’s Word, vs. 17b, to preserving God’s Word in the stomach, vs. 18, (that was thought to house the heart), to the outward lips that present God’s Word to others, cf. Prov 4:20-27.

2.) The Theological Motivation, vs. 19.

Vs. 19

Prov 22:19, “So that your trust may be in the LORD, I have taught you today, even you.”

This passage shifts from the son’s role in the learning process to that of the teacher, and more importantly, adjusts the adopted sayings of the wise, to faith in God.

Trust” is the Hebrew Noun MIBTAH, that means, “trust or security.” It refers to trust or confidence, that in which one trusts or an attitude of confidence itself. This trust, confidence, or sense of security should be placed “in the Lord,” YHWH, which includes His Word.

Beyond making you charming to others, these teachings enable you to realize a dynamic, trusting relationship with God.

I have taught” is the causative active Hiphil Perfect of the Verb YADHA that means, “to make known, to make understand, to teach.” The perfect speaks of the completed past action. The teacher has taught his student(s) these things. It has the double emphasis of “even you,” at the end. This is not an insult, but a double emphasis that the teacher has taught the student these principles and precepts of God.

It offers another motivation for the exhortations of vs. 17, that the son’s trust may have its proper object in the Lord and his wisdom, rather than in his own understanding, Prov 3:5f. And, it is saying, “Yes, I am talking to you, not somebody else. Trust in the Lord!”

So, this tells us that God inspired the teaching of His Word in writing it down and teaching it through His Spirit so that you and I, the believer, may have a relationship with Him. Through the mediation of the inspired Word, that is so trustworthy, we have the Lord as our object of trust, power, and authority.

The daily calling to mind of God’s Word, becomes the “today,” not just one day in the past when they were first learned or memorized. It also entails the contemporary relevance of God’s Word for each day into the indefinite future.

Therefore, the active trust in the Lord, who reveals His will through His Word, entails a constant commitment to the Lord and His words, not an autonomous reliance upon self, cf. Prov 3:5-7, or a passive resignation to fate. This faith distinguishes Solomon’s teaching from those of his peers in the ancient Near East.

3.) The Father’s Purpose, vs. 20-21.

Vs. 20

Prov 22:20, “Have I not written to you excellent things of counsels and knowledge.”

“Excellent things,” is actually an idiom using the word SHILSHOM that literally means, “the day before yesterday, three days ago, or the third day.” It means, “some time ago or previously.” This term usually refers to a point in the past when conditions were different than the present. Therefore, the teacher wrote this information some time ago for the student to learn. At that time, the student was ignorant of these things, now, after learning them, he has wisdom.

It is used in comparison with vs. 19, “I have taught you today.” Therefore, the teacher has taught in the past and is teaching in the present the principles and precepts of God. The point is that the teacher’s instruction is and has been consistent.

Though they might be “excellent things,” that were “written,” KATAB, that is not the emphasis. The emphasis is on the content of this teaching being “counsel,” MO’ETSAH and “knowledge,” DA’ATH. It is real and tangible information that allows the student to excel in life having been given the appropriate advice and knowledge to handle all situations. Therefore, it is this “knowledgeable advice” that is definite, unchangeable, and authoritative that will lead and guide us beautifully and peacefully in all areas of life.

Vs. 21

Prov 22:21, “To make you know the certainty of the words of truth that you may correctly answer him who sent you?”

Here, we see that these “sayings” aim to make us reliable to the one who commissioned us, i.e., God Himself.

To make you know,” is the causative active Hiphil Infinitive Construct for purpose of the verb YADHA, “to know or understand.” The purpose of the teacher’s teaching is “to cause the student to know,” God’s Word, i.e.,  “truth.”

Certainty” is the rare Hebrew Noun QOSHET that means, “truth or certainty.” It is only used here and in Psa 60:4. It means in our verse, the “realization” of a person’s truthfulness by an intimate knowledge of that individual; in this case, of God by means of His Word. An Aramaic cognate and the use of its denominative verb in post-Biblical Hebrew, also show us that the term has the sense of right, justice, rectitude, and aptness, and not just truth.

Some say it is the quality of a man whose speech and actions conform to what reality is and requires. In that sense, it is close to the meaning of truth, justice, righteousness, correctness, order, and proportion, whose implications for social justice remind us of what is to follow in the rest of the 30 Sayings.

Words” is the Noun EMER that means, “word, speech, or saying.” This is where we get the title, “30 Sayings” from. It means the spoken words particularly. Those written words that are spoken by the teacher when teaching.

Truth” is the more common word EMETH that means, “faithfulness, reliability, firmness, or truth.”

Through these “sayings,” the king insures that the entire chain of command within his administration will be honest, making its decisions on the basis of truth, and not on distortions, intrigues, and misrepresentations. As such, God desires for you and I to operate in the truth which is highly reliable and trustworthy, and not fall into the snares and traps that come with the lies and deceptions of Satan’s world, and the OSN.

“That you may correctly answer him who sent you?,” literally says, “to bring back the word of truth to the one who sent you,” SHUB EMER EMETH LE SHALACH. It expresses the purpose of the teaching. It speaks of the man who tells his councilors, diplomats, ambassadors, or emissaries, to look into various situations on which he expects reliable reports back.

This brings the “saying” to a conclusion, in that the result of learning, knowing, and understanding the truth, vs. 21a, is the ability to discern and apply it at the appropriate time, vs. 21b.

God is the one who sends us out into the world. When the situations of life come up, if we have learned God’s Word, we will apply it to the situation, and are in essence giving it back to Him. That gives us the principle, that when we apply God’s Word, we are in essence giving it back to the one who gave it to us in the first place. God has given us His Word, particularly through His Son, Jesus Christ, (the mind of Christ, 1 Cor 2:16, through the teaching ministry of God the Holy Spirit, utilizing the conduit of the Pastor-Teacher. When we learn and apply it, through the empowering ministry of the Holy Spirit, we are in essence applying or giving that Word back to God.

In Conclusion:

The exhortation is given to learn and pass on the teaching of God’s Word, vs. 17, followed by three motivations:

  • There will be a pleasing store of wisdom, vs. 18.
  • There will be a deeper trust in the Lord, vs. 19.
  • It will build reliability, as you will grasp the truth, vs. 20.

And, as a result, you will be a special envoy to God to keep wisdom in your heart and on your lips so you can give it to others as well, vs. 21.

3. The wise ones care for and protect the poor, vs. 22-29.

This section also begins a Decalogue of “Sayings” about wealth, Prov 22:22-23:11. There is an inclusion proscribing taking advantage of the poor, Prov 22:22, and of the “fatherless,” Prov 23:10, with threats the Lord will plead their cause, Prov 22:23; 23:11, frames the Decalogue.

Apart from the 9th Saying, Prov 23:9, all the sayings pertain to wealth:

a.) Sayings 1-4 prohibit illegitimate forms of money making, Prov 22:22-28.

b.) Only the positive 5th Saying presents a legitimate form of success, and that to serve kings, not to make money for self, Prov 22:29.

c.) Sayings 6-8 escalate these prohibitions against overt acts to prohibitions against greed, Prov 23:1-8.

1) At their center, “Saying 7” strikes at the heart, the desire to become rich, Prov 23:4-5.

d.) The 9th Saying, Prov 23:9, forms an inner frame with the 2nd, Prov 22:24-28; both pertain to avoiding socializing with fools, as the 9th forbids speaking to fools to convert them, preparing the way for the second unit of the Thirty Sayings.

e.) The 10th Saying goes back to the courtroom regarding property treachery.

Vs. 22-23

Prov 22:22-23, “Do not rob the poor because he is poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate; 23For the LORD will plead their case, and take the life of those who rob them.”

This first “Saying,” is the first that forbids enriching oneself through unjust acts. This first admonition after the prologue, vs. 17-21, again picks up the theme that ran through the first half of this Chapter, vs. 1-16, “Do not plunder the poor, (DAL).” We are reminded of the integrity and fairness we should have within our society, especially in a court of law, (i.e., “at the gate,” SHA’AR that was the place of legal proceedings), as we noted in vs. 10-16. “Since the gate is one of the places in which wisdom stands ready to teach all who will listen (1:21; 8:3), justice is a primary concern of wisdom, not merely legal niceties.” (Complete Biblical Library Commentary.)

The ones that are to be insured justice and fairness are the “poor,” DAL, used twice in the first sentence. Amenemope 4.4-9, gives us further definition of what or who the DAL entail, as it prohibits the same injustice in its second saying: “Beware of robbing a wretch,/Of attacking a cripple;/Don’t stretch out your hand to touch an old man,/Nor open your mouth to an elder./Don’t let yourself be sent on a mischievous errand,/Nor be friends with him who does it.” So, to name a few, it includes: the wretch, cripple, elderly, and those lacking financial resources to protect or defend their legal rights.

If there is unfairness, it is considered “robbing,” them, GAZAL, “to tear away, take away, or rob,” cf. Prov 28:24. This verb means robbery or seizure on any level, and in the Qal Imperfect Jussive it means, “to actively desire someone to not rob or steal someone.” It refers to taking something from someone else by unlawful force and to continue forcibly and illegally to withhold it from its rightful owner. By definition “poor” entails being vulnerable to an economic predator. And, linked to the Adverb AL, “not,” it means, “Do not actively rob or steal from the poor,” as an urgent, personalized prohibition. Because the poor are defenseless, they can be easily robbed. This makes the crime not only contemptible, but tempting as well. Therefore, it is not just speaking about the act of injustice in the courtroom, but the thought about doing it. Both are prohibited.

In the second half of vs. 22, injustice is also called “crushing” with the Verb DAKA in the Piel Imperfect Jussive, which is an intensive desired action for someone to not, “crush, beat down, bruise, oppress, or take advantage of someone.” And, again with the Adverb AL, it means, “Do not crush, beat down, etc.” Just because someone is poor or weak in society, should not make them an easy target or prey for the more powerful to take advantage of them. There should be fairness and equity in the entire process. By picturing robbing the poor as “crushing” them, it points to the rich merchants who manipulate the economy in cahoots with just as corrupt magistrates who deprive the poor of justice when they plead their case in the gate, cf. Ex 23:1-9; Ex 22:20f, 22:24f; 23:25f.; Lev 19:13; Deut 27:25; Ezek 18:7ff.; Micah 2:1-11; 3:1-12; 6:9-16; 7:1-6; etc.

Isa 3:15, “‘What do you mean by crushing My people and grinding the face of the poor?’ Declares the Lord GOD of hosts.”

By “crushing,” the already poor, it may depict the extinction of their status as a free citizen, where they are brought to a state of inability to pay and therefore pressed into a state of dependence or slavery, cf. vs. 7.

So, the “crushing” in this case, is not only physical but social and economic oppression by leaders or the powerful. The oppression pictured here may be in bounds legally, but it is out of bounds morally, (e.g., similar to modern business ethics).

The one who would be wise is advised not “to cause to be crushed” the poor or weak at the gate; the scene of legal decisions. In this part, the “poor” are also called “afflicted,” which is the Adjective ANI used as a Noun here that means, “unfortunate, afflicted, poor, or humble.” Like DAL, it is used for the economically disadvantaged and often occurs in parallel with DAL, Job 34:28; Psa 82:3; Isa 10:2; 11:4; 26; Amos 2:7.

It seems that this word simply refers to a person who is hampered by a low income and in a difficult life situation. Therefore, it has a broader perspective than DAL. It broadens the group that is not to be taken advantage of in a court of law to include: the wretched, cripple, elderly, and those lacking financial resources to protect or defend their legal rights, as noted above. It is used in Prov 3:34; 14:24; 15:15; 16:19; 30:14; 31:9-20.

These mandates were given to Israel in the Law of Moses, especially the “sundry laws,” Ex 23:6-9; cf. Job 31:16; Zech 7:10; Mal 3:5. And, Job 24:2 combines in a single verse both robbery and the moving of boundary stones, the 10th Saying prohibition.

Ex 23:6-9 “You shall not pervert the justice due to your needy brother in his dispute. 7Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous, for I will not acquit the guilty. 8And you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just. 9And you shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.” 

Job 24:2, “Some remove the landmarks; they seize and devour flocks.”

Malachi 3:5, “Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien, and do not fear Me,” says the LORD of hosts.”

Vs. 23

Prov 22:23, “For the LORD will plead their case and take the life of those who rob them.”

In this verse, the Lord steps in to the situations where oppression of the poor is rampant, as He has compassion on the afflicted, Isa 49:13, saves the afflicted, Psa 34:6; 35:10, provides for the poor, Psa 68:10, and maintains the cause of the oppressed, Psa 140:12. And in our passage, “For the LORD will plead their case and take the life of those who rob them.” 

Psa 35:10, “All my bones will say, ‘LORD, who is like You, Who delivers the afflicted from him who is too strong for him, and the afflicted and the needy from him who robs him?’”

Psa 140:12, “I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted and justice for the poor.”

“For or because,” KI, tells us the reason for this prohibition. What is interesting about this passage is that it uses both the Verb and Noun of RIYB and Verb QABA twice, to go along with the doubling up of DAL in vs. 22.

“Plead their case” uses RYIB for both words and is another one of the legal terms we have in Chapter 22 that means to, “conduct a lawsuit, contend, dispute, or strive.” It denotes some kind of argument or conflict between people. Most uses of this verb have a legal setting, such as when someone feels wronged and accuses another of breaking an agreement or going against the community standards in some way. In our passage, the Qal future Perfect Verb is used for “will plead,” and the Noun that means, “lawsuit or contention,” is used for “case.”

Ex 23:2, “You shall not follow the masses in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice.”

And, the One pleading or defending the case of the poor and afflicted is YHWH, “the Lord.” The “robbers” deceive themselves if they think the poor have no protector. The Protector of the poor is none other than the Lord himself. Therefore, if the ways of justice are perverted, let those who render a false and oppressive verdict remember that the supreme Judge in heaven is observing all. And, He “will render to every man according to his deeds,” Rom 2:6; cf. Psa 62:12; Prov 24:12; Mat 16:27; Rev 22:12.

Next, we have the double use of the Verb QABA that means, “rob, to take the life and/or property of another, to cheat, or plunder.” It is a less used word for “rob,” compared to GAZAL in vs. 22. In Mal 3:8-9, it means, “to keep back what belongs properly to God.” Therefore, in our verse, it can also apply to keeping back or stealing what legally belongs to someone else.

In the first use, it is in the Qal future Perfect for the Lord’s execution of the sentence He will bring to the one who steals or cheats the poor and afflicted in the perversion of justice. The sense is that the Lord will take their “life,” NEPHESH, “soul, life, breath,” here “life,” or “to rob the soul,” which ends physical life when removed from the body. In context, it means the execution of Divine capital punishment, which we also call the Sin Unto Death, the third stage of God’s Divine discipline, 1 Cor 11:30; cf. 1 John 5:16-17.

1 Cor 11:30, “For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.”

Therefore, as the robbers dealt out death to the defenseless, the great Protector of the poor, who has in His hands the life and death of all people, will hand down a death sentence on the contemptible offenders.

In the second use of QABA, “those who rob them,” it is in the Qal active Participle and refers to the ones who are doing the cheating or robbing of the poor or afflicted inside the court of law. It is referring to those who keep back or steal what legally belongs to the weak, poor, or afflicted.

So, we see that the poor have a Defender Who will protect them and execute judgment upon the offender, cf. Prov 23:10f. When Israel’s judicial system failed in the city gate, the insulted Maker of the poor, Prov 14:21; 17:5; 22:2, takes up their case and gives voice to those too weak to have a voice, and avenges them in the heavenly court, cf. Ex 22:22-24; Deut 10:17-18; Isa 1:23; 10:1-2; 11:4; 25:4; Jer 5:28; Amos 2:6; 4:1; 5:12; Micah 3:11; Psa 72; cf. Prov. 15:25.

Isa 11:4, “But with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.”

Isa 25:4, “For You have been a defense for the helpless, a defense for the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat; for the breath of the ruthless is like a rain storm against a wall.”

Psa 72:12-14, “For He will deliver the needy when he cries for help, the afflicted also, and him who has no helper. 13He will have compassion on the poor and needy, and the lives of the needy He will save. 14He will rescue their life from oppression and violence, and their blood will be precious in His sight.”

Righteous judgment is precious in His sight because it reflects the integrity of His Divine throne, a great white throne, untarnished by iniquity.

Vs. 24-25

Prov 22:24-25, “Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man, 25or you will learn his ways and find a snare for yourself.”

In “Saying 3,” similar to other proverbs that speak about friendship, this saying warns that we become like our friends, cf. Prov 13:20; 28:7; 29:3.

Prov 13:20, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”

If our friends have certain problems, you will have them too. As the English proverb goes, “Birds of a feather flock together.” This saying is close to the teaching in, Prov 1:10-19, as well as, Prov 14:17, 29, and Prov 15:1.

Vs. 24

This verse begins with a prohibition not to associate with two categories of people that are similar. It begins with the proscription, “do not associate” is the Hebrew Negative Adverb AL, “not, do not,” with the Verb RA’AH, רָעָה‎ that first means, “to graze, pasture, shepherd, etc.” The second meaning is “to associate with.” It does not necessarily imply a relationship of deep intimacy, but does involve more than a casual involvement. It is in the Hithpael Imperfect Jussive for a reflexive simple action desired for someone. In other words, we should not have a relationship with this type of person or people.

The object of this prohibited relationship is “with a man,” that is actually the noun BA’AL that means, “an owner, citizen, husband, or lord.” The word can also describe possessing a quality, attribute, or characteristic like anger in our passage, i.e., wrath, Prov 29:22; hairy, 2 Kings 1:8; appetite, Prov 23:2; wisdom, Eccl 7:12.

This person is one “whose judgment is clouded by irrational thought and who loses all sense of proportion, acts impetuously, often in a terrifying way, and is incapable of measured utterance. The quick-tempered is like a bomb with a short fuse, ready to explode at any moment with devastating consequences.” (New International Commentary).

Interestingly, this word is also the name for the ancient Canaanite pagan god Baal, who was known as the “storm god” or a “god of war.”

“The most prominent usages refer to Canaanite deity. This false god in the OT is the name of a western Semitic storm god encountered in Egyptian texts (14th century B.C.), Tell-el-Amarna letters (14th century B.C.), Alalakh Tablets (15th century B.C.), Ugaritic texts (14th century B.C.), Amorite proper names found at Mari, Tell-al-Rimah, Chagar Bazar, and later in Phoenician and Punic texts. Thus, different names do not denote various deities but local identifications of this same storm god. The storm god, also called Haddu, was considered a war god. Also, he was the husband of Astarte, he ensured fertility of the earth (a common function for a storm god).” (Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary)

Here BA’AL is associated with the “anger”, APH that literally means, “face or nose,” and figuratively “anger” as we have seen previously in Proverbs, Prov 15:18; 17:17, and most have been in reference to exhorting us to be “slow to anger,” Prov 14:29; 15:1; 16:32; 19:11.

Prov 14:17, “A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated.

Prov 15:18, “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.”

It emphasizes the physical visible state of excitement of an individual breathing heavily as a consequence of anger. So, we see a bit of humor here, calling this “man of anger” a “god of storm or war” that demonstrates physically his anger. That is the imagery first given of this prohibition.

The second category we are warned not to associate with or “to go with,” is the more typical word for “man,” ISH. This man is called a “hot-tempered” man which is the Noun CHEMAH, חֵמָה that means,‎ “wrath, heat,” or sometimes, “poison.” This word emphasized the internal physiological aspects of being angry; the heat or poison on the inside that burns. It speaks to the inner emotional revolt of the soul.

Prov 29:22, “An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression.”

Psa 37:8, “Cease from anger and forsake wrath; do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.”

Interestingly, the phrase, “go with” also has idolatry connotations with the Verb, BO בּוֹא‎ in the Qal Imperfect as in Ezek 23:17. But here, it means to not, “go with” or “associate with” this type of person.

Vs. 25

Prov 22:25, “Or you will learn his ways and find a snare for yourself

Here we have the warning of consequences if we “hang around” with angry or hot-tempered man. It begins with “Or you will learn his ways,” is PEN ALAPH ORACH, “so that you do not learn or become familiar with his path way.” That is, “his way of life” that is filled with anger and wrath. ALAPH is a rare verb meaning, “to learn” and is only used here and in Job 15:5; 33:33; 35:11. In Job, it is used for “to teach.” Therefore, it can mean, “to be accustomed to.” So, we understand that when we associate with people, we are taught, learn, or become accustom to their behaviors, their way of life, which then can becomes our own

1 Cor 15:33, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’.”

1 Cor 15:34, “Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.”

Not only will we learn their bad behaviors, but it will cause us many problems and difficulties as noted in the last phrase, “and find a snare for yourself,” which is the Qal Imperfect Verb LAQACH, “to take, seize, grasp, etc.,” with the Noun MOQESH, “snare, trap,” that signifies, “lethal hidden danger,” with the Preposition LE, “for,” and the Noun NEPHESH, that means, “soul, breath, or life,” “And seize a snare for your soul/life.” Thus, both Saying 2 and 3, warn about hazards to your soul. In other words, the mentality of your soul will be corrupted by association with these types that will lead to physical problems as well. It is speaking about self-induced misery.

The habits of the hothead are both infectious, vs. 25a, and lethal, vs 25b, and the unsuspecting are often misled by bad company, Prov 1:10ff. Familiarity can breed complacency, so that what may have repelled us at first becomes increasingly acceptable and eventually characterizes us. In this case, the warning is that we will not only begin to share their behavior, but also the problems that result from it. By associating with the hothead, one becomes fatally involved even before he becomes aware of it himself. Since behavior reveals the state of the heart, and because attitudes are often assimilated unconsciously, we need friends who will strengthen, not inhibit, our righteousness.

This metaphor is ironic; in that one avoids traps to save their life, not seize them to kill one’s self. Therefore, it is important to consider carefully those whom we choose for companionship and fellowship. To keep company with a man given to wrath and fury, is to be contaminated by his hasty ways and to bring a snare on one’s own soul. Anger and malice are the works of the flesh. The believer should have no association with one quickly angered, for we are too easily defiled by such conduct. To continue friendship with one displaying these evidences of unjudged carnality is to endanger one’s own life and testimony.

How do you know if you are an angry man?

  • Do you speak or strike impulsively?
  • Do you yell at your wife or children?
  • Do you say harsh things that others question or condemn?
  • Do others crave your presence or avoid you?
  • Are you known as a gracious or a difficult man?
  • Do your wife and children tell you all they are thinking?
  • Do you rule by intimidation or affection?
  • Does your wife stay with you because she has to or wants to?
  • Are you an angry man?

Vs. 26-27

The matched sections of vs. 24-25 and vs. 26-27, present familiar warnings about avoiding certain people and practices, while juxtaposing new motivations. Therefore, “Saying 4,” is a warning not to become surety for another person’s loan or debt.

Prov 22:26-27, “Do not be among those who give pledges, among those who become guarantors for debts.

27If you have nothing with which to pay, why should he take your bed from under you?”

Vs. 26

The phrase “among those who give pledges” is an idiom in the Hebrew from the Qal Active Participle Verb TAQA, “to pitch, clap, blow,” and the Noun KAPH, “hollow of the hand or palm.”  We could literally say, “clap hands.” It is similar to the meaning of a hand shake that seals a deal. We have seen this in its other uses in Proverbs, Prov 6:1, 3; 10:4; 17:18. The word KAPH is found in phrases like “clap your hands,” that can also mean the display of anger or contempt, cf. Num 24:10.

In the second half of this verse we have “guarantors for debts” that uses the Qal Active Participle of ARAB and the Noun MASHSHA’AH. The Verb ARAB, עָרַב means, “to pledge.” It is a technical term meaning, “to exchange merchandise” under the barter trade system. Second, the verb means “to mortgage,” as farmers mortgaging their fields, vineyards, and houses in order to obtain grain during a famine. The third major usage of the verb as here, expresses the idea “to be a surety” or “to pledge” for someone. It means you “co-sign” a loan, or become security for someone else’s loan. The Lord warns us not to become surety for another’s debt, Prov 6:1; 11:15; 17:18.

The Noun MASHSHA’AH, מַשָּׁאָה is only used here and in Deut 24:10. It is a feminine noun depicting a debt or a loan. It indicates something given to a neighbor with the expectation that it will be paid back.

As in the previous “Saying,” taking a pledge is a form of bad association. Just as one stands to lose in associating with a hothead, one can lose all in a bad pledge.

Other references to co-signing agreements explain that this is foolish, Prov 17:18, urging all who have done so to escape the trap that they are in, Prov 6:1-5, maintaining that one aspect of a secure life is to avoid co-signing Prov 11:15.

Vs. 27

“If you have nothing with which to pay,” uses for “to pay” the intensive active Piel Infinitive of SHALAM that literally means, “to be complete or at peace.” The most common use of this verb is in the Piel stem, as here, with the meaning, “to pay what is owed.” So, we see a linkage between being able to pay your bills or loans, with having peace within your soul. The negative is that there may not be peace in your soul, if you cannot pay your bills, which is the warning here. The warning is not to over extend yourself financially and then have fear, worry, and anxiety in your soul.

Next, we have the warning, “why should he take your bed from under you?” “Bed” is the Hebrew Noun MISHKAB that means, “bed or sexual relations,” and sometimes “blanket.” Metaphorically, it is also associated with idolatry, Isa 57:7f. So, we see the tie in with the previous Saying in regard to idolatry and the cultic sexual immorality. By analogy, if you over extend yourself financially, you are either worshipping the material things which you have purchased, or you are now worshipping the loan which you have to focus tirelessly on to repay.

But, the meaning here is related to your property that could be repossessed, (taken or seized, LAQACH), because you could not pay your debt(s).

From under you,” is the Adverb MIN with the Preposition TACHATH that means, “beneath or instead of.” It has the meaning of taking your property with the potential warning that they could take you. So, having your “bed snatched from under you” is like our saying of “losing the shirt off your back.”

The wealthy slept in beds, ordinary people slept on the floor in their garments or under blankets, cf. Judges 4:18. Here, for the wealthy, the bed is his last valuable possession. For the ordinary person, the blanket they slept under is the last valuable possession. Now, all of the sudden, if at the time of payment you lacked the money to repay the loan, you find yourself on the floor without a blanket.

So, these verses explain the prohibition: If the person for whom you have co-signed defaults, then you are liable for their debt. If you have no money with which to repay the loan, then the loan agent will take your property in satisfaction. In other words, the co-signer pledges his guarantee that the loan will be repaid. But, life is uncertain, and who can know whether they will have the money at hand when the time comes. They thus endanger their property and perhaps their well-being and that of their family. And, if he does not have the means of repayment, he may find himself and his family “on the floor.” Therefore, we are to have wisdom when entering into any financial agreement and weigh the consequences against the gain, to make good and wise decisions. Most of which will call for abstaining from being a co-signer to a loan.

Vs. 28

Prov 22:28, “Do not move the ancient boundary which your fathers have set.”

In this “5th Saying,” we once again begin with a prohibition, vs 22, 24, 26, utilizing the Hebrew negative Adverb AL, “do not.” This time, it is linked with, “move,” which is the Hiphil Jussive Verb SUGH, סוּג that means, “to turn back, to deviate, to be disloyal.” The causative Hiphil with the Imperfect Jussive of desired action exhorts us to, “not to be caused to deviate from.” This prohibition is also given in Prov 23:10a, utilizing the same structure for the first half of the passage. In fact, five times in the OT SUGH is used to refer to the removing of a “boundary,” GEBUL, גְּבוּל stone that was prohibited under the Law of Moses, Deut 19:14; 27:17; Prov 22:28; 23:10; Hos 5:10.

The Noun GEBUL designates, “a border, boundary, or territory; barrier or wall.” It is used to point out the limits or boundaries of territories, 1 Sam 13:18, or borderland of geographical areas, Psa 78:54, that were to be respected.

The nature of these borders or boundaries that God had allotted to the people of Israel were, “ancient,” OLAM, עוֹלָם‎ that means, “forever, eternity, something everlasting, etc.” We have noted this word in Prov 8:23; 10:25, 30, and will see it in Prov 23:10; 27:24.

Prov 10:25, “When the whirlwind passes, the wicked is no more, but the righteous has an everlasting foundation.”

OLAM has the sense of eternity, past and future. Here it is in regard to eternity past. The second half of this verse tells us “which your fathers have set.” Yet, those boundaries were ordained by God from eternity past.

Which your fathers have set,” uses the Relative Participle ASHER, “which,” (to further qualify the boundary and contains the reason), the Qal Perfect Verb ASAH for “to make, made, or set,” with the broader context of “have put into effect or put into place,” (a word prominent in God’s creations), and the Plural Noun AB that means, “fathers, heads of household, ancestors, etc.” Therefore, these borders were set by their forefathers, maybe going back to the apportioning of land when Israel occupied the land of Canaan given to them by God, Joshua 14-21, that refers to the time when Joshua distributed the land by casting the sacred lot. It began with territorial boundaries for the 12 Tribes of Israel, with Ephraim and Manasseh getting portions each, as the double blessing to their father Joseph. Then, within those borders, land was divided by families. Private land boundaries were marked out by stone pillars or cairns (piles of stone) erected between properties to mark legal ownership. So, these boundaries were part of God’s blessings to each family as they entered the Promised Land.

Deut 19:14, “You shall not move your neighbor’s boundary mark, which the ancestors have set, in your inheritance which you will inherit in the land that the LORD your God gives you to possess.”

But, we also must remember that because the land was the Lord’s in the first place as its Creator, and the Israelites were merely His tenants, Lev 25:23, it was His to apportion, cf. Joshua 14-21.

Lev 25:23, “The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me.”

Therefore, to steal someone’s property was thus to reject God’s Lordship, His right to use the land as He wished. The Law cursed anyone who moved a boundary marker, Deut 19:14; 27:17, a curse reiterated in Hosea 5:10.

Deut 27:17, “Cursed is he who moves his neighbor’s boundary mark. And all the people shall say, ‘Amen’.”

“In an agrarian society, the ability to feed one’s family (to survive) might depend on the produce from an acre or so of cultivable land. Moving a boundary marker stole not only property, but crops. This loss could well ruin the life of the small farmer.” (Complete Biblical Library Commentary.)

“Throughout the ancient Near East, people had great respect for private and tribal boundaries so essential for a family’s life. Without this understanding, every field would be up for grabs and anarchy would ensue. Unfortunately, the crime was easy to accomplish and difficult to prove. Proverbs is concerned with protecting the fields of the widows and fatherless (see 15:15; 23:10; cf. 14:21, 31; 17:5; 30:14) because the economically disadvantaged, who had limited financial resources and no one to represent them in legal disputes, were most vulnerable to this high-handed, greedy transgression of their rights (cf. Job 24:3). As the era of the monarchy progressed the powerful class seized the ancestral lands of their subjects (1 Kgs. 21:4; Isa 5:8; Hos. 5:10).” (Waltke, New International Commentary.)

That is why we also see the prohibition to steal from the poor or weak and God’s promise of defense and retribution in vs. 22-23, linked with our verse. As noted above, the parallel admonition in Prov 23:10, is followed in vs. 11, “For their Redeemer is strong; He will plead their case against you.” This reminds us of Prov 22:23, where the Lord is the defender of the weak, and judge, jury, and executioner of the offender.

As such, God wanted them to be satisfied with the provisions He had given to them and seek Him out for the necessary provision of the family. He did not want them to covet the land He had blessed another family with. It reminds them and us, not to covet our neighbor’s property that could lead to illicitly moving boundary lines.

Interestingly, by “moving the boundaries of our fathers,” it actually is breaking three of the 10 Commandments:

  1. The 5th Commandment of “Honoring your mother and father,” Ex 20:12.
  2. The 8th Commandment of, “You shall not steal,” Ex 20:15.
  3. The 10th Commandment of, “You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor,” Ex 20:17.

Further, the land proportioned to each family was rendered holy and not to be tampered with by its sacred origin and antiquity, as Jephthah argued in Judges 11:14-17. Therefore, we see what may seem like a simple action of moving a boundary stone is actually very egregious to The Lord.

We also have several additional principles from this passage:

  1. The property that you have, has been ordained from eternity past by God.
  2. There is absolutely nothing wrong with owning and maintaining property.
  3. Yet, we are not to covet, (lust after), or steal the land or property that belongs to others, especially our neighbors.
  4. Be satisfied, content, and happy with what God has given you!
  5. Enjoy the blessings He has for you, and do not lust after the blessing of others.

On a spiritual basis, I present two comments from H.A. Ironside that is very similar to that of J. Vernon McGee’s comment on this verse.

“In this dispensation of grace the allotment of God’s people is heavenly, not earthly. Our inheritance is in the precious truth which He has committed to us. To remove the landmarks—the great distinguishing doctrines of Scripture—will be to incur the divine displeasure. Yet, unfortunately, many supposedly learned doctors are engaged in that wretched business today. No truth of Scripture is too sacred for their irreverent handling. Precious truths like those of atonement and justification by faith—even the mystery of the Holy Trinity and the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ—are, in their eyes, but common ideas, which they may dismiss or ignore as they please. But a day of reckoning is coming, when God will judge them in righteousness; and those who have been misled by their removal of ancient and venerable landmarks of God’s Word will curse them for the loss of their souls. Terrible will be the accounting of men who, while posing as instructors of the flock of Christ, have all the while been Satan’s instruments for overthrowing the saving truths of Scripture. See Paul’s warning word to Timothy (2 Timothy 1:8-13, and 4:1-5). Compare with Proverbs 23:10-11.” (H.A. Ironside Expository Commentary – Proverbs.)

“Now I am going to make a spiritual application of this. You may think I am square when I say this, but I believe that today we have seen the landmarks of the Christian faith removed. They have been removed by what was first called modernism, and now is called liberalism. These folk with a liberal viewpoint say, “This old landmark, this doctrine that was taught in the days of the apostle Paul, is no longer relevant. We have learned so much that we don’t need the doctrine of the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures. We can do away with that. And we can do away with the doctrine of the deity of Christ.” These distinguishing doctrines of the Christian faith have been pretty well washed out by a great many of the old line denominations on the basis that we must come up to date. Now I want to say this: Instead of moving forward and removing landmarks, we need to start moving backward to get back to many of the ancient landmarks. Those ancient landmarks made this nation great. The landmarks of moral values, the spiritual truths, the biblical basis — all have been removed. We look around us today and hear everyone telling what he thinks the solution is, and it is always a sociological or psychological solution. I haven’t heard any of our leaders suggesting a biblical solution. I say that we need to get back to the good old landmarks which our nation had at the beginning.” (Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee.)

Vs. 29

Proverbs 22:29, “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.”

This “6th Saying,” stands out from the others as it is a positive exhortation for doing your job well and a model of success. It begins with the Qal Perfect of CHAZAH, חָזָה “to see, behold, to perceive or consider as the result of reflection or insight.” This is the first time it is used in Proverbs, and will be used again in Prov 24:32; 29:20.

It is used in contrast to its broader synonym RA’A, “to see,” and is predominantly a technical term for a form of revelation to the prophet, consisting of the perception of God’s voice in a vision or deep sleep. However, the word is used here and in Prov 24:32; 29:20, as in Psa 11:4; 17:2, to connote a sharp inspection.

The “man skilled” is ISH MAHIYR, מָהִי that means, “skilled or diligent, quick to communicate, ready, or prompt, that is, being zealous for what is right.” It is used only four times in the OT, Ezra 7:6; Psa 45:1; Prov 22:29; Isa 16:5. In each context, it shows that zeal for the task at hand is a common characteristic of the person or thing described as “skilled.”

The skill spoken of here is “in his work,” BE MELAKHAH, מְלָאכָה. It connotes the idea of the productive, purposeful activity implied by someone being sent to bear a message. And, since it is tied with the “king” MELEKH, we could say the job of emissary or ambassador. But, it is also used generally for any kind of work or business’ civil, political, religious, etc., and for the “work of God.” It can also refer to what can be gained by the earnings of a person’s work, i.e., one’s “possessions, property, substance, goods, articles,” as in Gen 33:14, (herds), Ex 22:11 (what a neighbor owns). So, we also see a tie in with vs. 28, the rightful ownership of property.

MELAKHAH is used in Prov 18:9, for the negative exhortation and 24:27, for another positive one.

Prov 18:9, “He also who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys.”

Therefore, in our passage, it encourages us to think of someone who stands out for his or her ability and emulate them in our own work.

In the second half of the passage, we see the blessing of doing your job well, “He will stand before kings.” 

“He will stand,” is the reflexive Hithpael Imperfect of the Verb YATSAB, ‏יָצַב‎ that means, “to stand, confront, or take ones stand.” It is used in a reflexive stem as here, and means, “to station oneself or to take a firm stand,” cf. 1 Sam 3:10. This word pertains to firmly presenting oneself to engage in a mission, in a fight, or in a commission. It is never used of taking one’s stand after fulfilling an assignment.

And, because it is in reference to “before kings,” LE PANIM MELEKH, YATSAB means, “putting oneself in a place of honor,” in our verse. The plural for “kings” suggests this proficient person enjoys an international reputation. The Hebrew actually reads, “Face to face with kings, he will take his position of honor.

Excellence has rewards, one of which is to be recognized by the most important members of society, those who could also best reward quality, cf. Prov 10:4; 21:5.

In the last part of our passage, “he will not stand before obscure men,” we have a contrasting complementary exhortation using the negative BAL, “not or nothing,” and the reflexive Hithpael Imperfect of the Verb YATSAB, once again. Therefore, it means, “he will not take a position.” The ones in view here are, LE PANIM CHASHOK, “face to face with obscure or insignificant ones.

CHASHOK, חָשֹׁךְ is only used here in the OT. It comes from the Hebrew Noun for “darkness,” CHOSHEK, and is an Adjective identifying something as obscure or insignificant. It is a detrimental and belittling term used of certain persons who are nobodies on the social scale or in political influence. Therefore, this proverb aims to motivate the son to become competent in whatever commissions he receives in order to rise to his greatest social and economic potential in the service of kings. By receiving these royal commissions and successfully fulfilling them, he earns himself an international reputation and a handsome profit.

Principles:

  1. Skill is the result of practice under the oversight of someone who is already accomplished at that skill, trade, or profession.
  2. Wisdom recognizes someone else’s expertise, is humble to see its own need, and is then willing to submit to being taught so that it can gain that skill.
  3. Mastery, however, comes only through tutored diligence. Dabbling in many areas may be recreational, but it cannot lead to excellence, which comes only from focused effort over a period of time.
  4. Excellence, in turn, leads to enjoyment, which encourages further effort.

And, that is the formula for the believer who desires to or has excelled in the spiritual life. God has given us a spiritual gift, with a ministry, and an effect, 1 Cor 12:7-6, as professional Christians, from the moment of our salvation. He has pre-ordained these. Now, it is your job to learn about your gift and develop it to achieve excellence in the service of our King, the Lord Jesus Christ.

  1. Skill. Identify your spiritual gift and develop its traits. Find someone who you know also has that gift.
  2. Wisdom. Humble yourself to learn from the expertise of others with your gift.
  3. Mastery. Then exercise your spiritual gift under the tutelage of others who have your gift. Ask for constructive criticism to help fine tune your gift. And focus your attention on your gift and not the gifts that others may have.
  4. Excellence. After focused effort over a period of time, you will have mastered your gift and now you can enjoy the fruits of your labor by excelling like never before in your ministry and effect.

And, all of this is accomplished through the consistent and faithful intake and application of God’s Word from your right Pastor-Teacher; diligence in studying and applying God’s Word.

Jesus taught that the reward will be for the one who is trustworthy in the small things of this world. They will be entrusted with ten cities in His coming kingdom, Mat 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27; cf. John 12:26.

Mat 25:21, “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master’.”

Luke 19:17, “And he said to him, ‘Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, be in authority over ten cities’.”

His commendation will not be based on the amount of work you have done, or on the number of people to whom you have witnessed, or how hard you have worked, but on how faithful you have been to the task He has given you. He may have given you the task of being a mother to a little one in the home. Moses’ mother was faithful in that way, and her name is recorded in the Word of God. The reward will be for faithfulness in the application of your gift.

Rom 12:10-11, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.”

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