This chapter begins with a comment on the great importance of a person’s reputation.
The first verse of this chapter declares that a good name is to be preferred far above earthly treasure, though often it is forfeited to obtain riches. The adjective good does not occur in the original text. But “a name” is used in the sense of a character of renown, as elsewhere in Scripture: notably in Genesis 11:4, “let us make us a name”; Deuteronomy 26:19, “make thee high…in name”; 2 Samuel 7:9, 23; 8:13; and many other passages. In this sense then a name is more desirable than vast wealth, and to be respected is more valuable than immense revenues.
It is a great mistake for the young to suppose that an honored name is more easily made on the battlefield, in the halls of government, the ranks of great writers, or in the business world. No name is more lasting and enduring than that won by him who lives for God and considers all that earth has to offer as worthless for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ. Devotion to David caused Abishai and Benaiah to win enduring names (2 Samuel 23:18,22). Devotion to Christ has caused many to be immortalized who otherwise would long since have fallen into oblivion. Who would have remembered the twelve apostles, if they had not left all and followed Jesus? What would have been the glory of the name of Saul, the rabbi of Tarsus, compared with that of Paul the missionary of the cross?
The concept of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, if understood correctly, is a Scriptural doctrine. We learn from Scripture that God “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26). Human reason, apart from divine revelation, would never have discovered this wonderful secret. Universal brotherhood—the union of all the races and nations of men in one great family, springing from one common stock, despite obvious physical and ethnological differences— was never dreamed of by philosophers until they were enlightened by the inspired Word of God. Prior to that time the brotherhood of certain races was acknowledged proudly, while the human mind revolted against accepting a despised and ignorant slave of inferior caste as a brother. But the Hebrew Scriptures testify throughout to the fact that all men sprang from one common father, Adam, and are linked together by ties that cannot be dissolved. The Christian Scriptures emphasize this truth and seeing Adam as the son of God, declare that God is “the Father of spirits” (Hebrews 12:9); therefore in a creatorial sense, God is the Father of all men.
However the aspect of God’s universal fatherhood through creation is very different from the relationship within the family of God as revealed by our Lord and His apostles. Man by the fall lost the divine likeness and became a sinner ruined and alienated. Hence the need of redemption and regeneration. By new birth those who by nature were children of wrath and disobedience, are made children of God and partakers of the divine nature. A new, eternal life is imparted and the Holy Spirit given, thus they cry, “Abba, Father.” Only those spiritually born form the new creation brotherhood because they possess a common life and nature.
This distinction needs to be kept in mind in our day of looseness and laxity. Men who rebel against the truth of the fall gladly call God their Father and see no need for the new birth. They link up saint and sinner in one great family.
The Christian unhesitatingly and freely acknowledges that Jehovah is the maker of all and that He is compassionate to all His creation. But he sees two families described throughout Scripture: “the children of God… and the children of the devil” (1 John 3:10).
This solemn proverb is deliberately repeated in 27:12. In God’s exceeding love He faithfully warns us of the terrible consequences of refusing to bow before Him in repentance and receive the grace He offers through Christ Jesus. The wise man sees the evil coming and hides himself in the refuge God has provided. But the simple harden their hearts and refuse to heed the warning of imminent danger, thus ensuring their own destruction.
“A man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land” (Isaiah 32:2). Faith sees the fulfillment of these precious words in the man Christ Jesus and fleeing to Him exclaims, “Thou art my hiding place” (Psalm 32:7). If He is rejected and His grace despised, certain and eternal judgment will follow. Contrast the Philippian jailer with the Roman magistrates (Acts 16:25-40).
How different are the paths and the ultimate rewards of the godly and the perverse! Heaven and Hell are as diverse as the roads leading to them. The godly man is marked out from others by a meek and humble spirit and the fear of the Lord. The ungodly is rebellious and self-willed. The way of the former leads to true riches, the honor that comes from God, and life everlasting. The steps of the latter soon became entangled in thorns and snares. He who lives in obedience to the word of Jehovah will be preserved from the traps of the world. Contrast Hezekiah and his son Manasseh before he was humbled (2 Chronicles 29-33).
To start a child right is of utmost importance. The saying of the Jesuit, “Give me your child till he is twelve, and I care not who has charge of him afterwards,” has passed into a proverb. The tree follows the bent of its early years, and so it is with our sons and daughters. 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 pretence and hypocricy 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).
He who obeys the Scriptural injunction to “owe no man any thing, but to love one another” (Romans 13:8), will escape the awful bondage of the debtor. The rich almost invariably lord their position over the poor, except where grace intervenes to check the potential pride of the human heart. Therefore it is natural that he who lends should consider himself superior to the borrower. The latter destroys his own freedom by his neglect of the divine command. It is far better to be in meager circumstances and dependent on God, than to have plenty but to know that it belongs to another. Nothing so crushes the spirit of a man as debt, if he has any conscience about it at all. The Christian should fear debt and flee from it, realizing that it is the effort of the enemy to undermine his peace and destroy his sense of dependence on the Lord.
The matter of debt should be of greater concern among Christians. People think little or nothing of accumulating bills and borrowing money without proper security, which afterwards may cause them deep grief and bring dishonor on Christ. He who would be the Lord’s servant alone and in bondage to no man will avoid debt in every form. Many by carelessness in borrowing, have left their families in dire distress. See the example in 2 Kings 4:1.
These two proverbs are in striking and intentional contrast; again they remind us of the certainty of a harvest similar to the character of the sowing.
He who sows iniquity will reap a hopelessly worthless crop. Though he take a lordly position and vent his anger against the godly, his rod will fail and his rule will come to a derisive end. See the example of the unhappy Pharaoh of the exodus.
But the kindly, benevolent soul who plants the seed of thoughtfulness for others will reap a bountiful harvest of consideration and blessing for himself. Bread cast on the waters returns after many days. See Ebed-melech (Jeremiah 38:7-12; 39:16-18).
See note on Proverbs 21:11. The scorner of this book is very much like the boaster of 1 Corinthians 5. Such a man can work untold mischief among a company of the Lord’s people. His wretched evil-speaking, coupled with his contempt for all godly restraint will corrupt the whole assembly. Therefore it is necessary to obey the Word of God and “Put away from among yourselves that wicked person” (1 Corinthians 5:11-13).
The law extended no mercy to the one who scorned the God of Israel and troubled His people. By the testimony of two or three witnesses he was to be put to death, that the evil might be put away from among them (Deuteronomy 17:2-7).
In this dispensation of grace such an extreme measure is not commanded. The saints are admonished to separate the troublemaker from their company, in order that the rest may be saved from falling into his unholy ways; thus the name of Christ will be kept from further dishonor. Once the mocker is separated he is in the place where God can deal with him. But while he remains in God’s family, he is a source of grief to the assembly and a reproach to the Lord. See Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Timothy 1:20).
A righteous ruler delights in a man of pure heart and gracious words. And the King of kings is indeed a Friend to such a one. It is the pure in heart who see God; they who truly are pure will demonstrate it by obedience to the word, “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6). 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. Note what is said of Mordecai (Esther 10:2-3).
The Lord’s eye is on His own truth, which is the only real knowledge. He guards it day and night and will never let it fall to the ground. When spoken by His servants He will see that it accomplishes His purpose (Isaiah 55:11).
But 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. Contrast Micaiah and the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 22).
See notes on Proverbs 12:27; 15:19; 19:24; 21:25; and 26:13. The sluggard devises many excuses to account for his laziness and utter lack of energy. Where no dangers or difficulties exist he imagines them; and where they really are he exaggerates them to such a degree that they appear to be insurmountable. He who approaches life in the strength of faith finds the lions have been rendered powerless to destroy him. Contrast with the slothful man of this verse, Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, one of David’s mighty men (2 Samuel 23:20).
See notes on Proverbs 2:16-19; 6:23-35; 7:4-27. The one who stops to listen to the flattering words of the strange woman is lured to his destruction. None who walk with God will be deceived by her; but he whose ways displease the Lord will readily fall a victim to her seductions. He will stumble into sin and its fearful consequences as a blind man falls into a deep pit. Judah is an example of this in Genesis 38.
See notes on Proverbs 13:24 and 19:18. To leave a child to himself is to ensure his ruin, for folly is bound up in his heart. Properly administered discipline will correct the natural tendency to go astray. Of course the rod is not the only form of discipline. Corporal punishment is not always required and might at times be very unwise. The rod, throughout Scripture, speaks of authority and power; in this case it refers to that parental restraint to which the child owes so much. It was the lack of this firm yet kindly discipline that was responsible in large measure for the evil ways of both Absalom and Adonijah (2 Samuel 14; 1 Kings 1:6).
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. Both courses lead to want instead of increase.
He who practices either of these habits, may seem to prosper and flourish for the moment; but his end will show the truth of God’s Word. He will not find the happiness he sought; he will at last be obliged to admit that his purpose has been utterly defeated because of the iniquity of his heart. See what is said in James 5 of the rich who oppress the poor and withhold their wages.
The challenge in verse 17 reminds us of the admonition repeated seven times in Revelation 2 and 3: “He that hath an ear, let him hear…” We have read many words of wisdom in the book of Proverbs and many more are to follow. The soul may become so used to them as to fail to discern their excellent character. We must apply our hearts to the knowledge given in these proverbs. For it is of all importance that they be kept within and fitted to the lips of the hearer, whose trust must be in Jehovah if he is to exemplify them in his life.
In the original the expression translated, “Have not I written to thee excellent things,” (20) is literally “have I not set them before thee in three ways” or “a third time.” This indicates the superlative nature of the counsel contained in this book. These excellent things are things of the highest value, beyond mere human wisdom. It is God Himself marking out the safe and right path for His children. Thus will they “know the certainty of the words of truth,” (21) and be enabled to use them correctly in reply to all who inquire. In this day of doubt and skepticism, it is a blessing to be able to rest the soul on the true and precious words of the living God,
In the New Testament we find four inspired apostles quoting unhesitatingly from the book of Proverbs. Paul quoted from it in Romans 12:19-20, and Hebrews 12:5-6; James in chapter 4:6 of his Epistle; Peter twice in his first, and once in his second letter, namely 1 Peter 4:8,17-18; 2 Peter 2:22; and Jude in the twelfth verse of his trenchant arraignment of the false teachers already creeping in among the saints.
But of deeper interest to the believer is that our Lord Himself, in His address at the table of the Pharisee as recorded in Luke 14, used a portion of this treasury of proverbial truth as His text (Proverbs 25:6-8). Added to this we find allusions and references to its teaching throughout the later books of the Old Testament and all parts of the New. God has linked this plain and intensely practical portion— these “words of truth”—inseparably with all the rest of His holy Book. As we continue our study, may it be with a fuller sense of the sacred character of the simple admonitions and hints for daily life that are contained in the book of Proverbs.
These proverbs contain a warning word to those who sit in the place of judgment (“gate” in kjv). If the ways of justice are perverted, let him who renders a false and oppressive sentence remember that the supreme Judge is observing all; He will render to every man according as his work has been. Righteous judgment is precious in His sight because it then reflects the integrity of His divine throne—a great white throne, unsullied by iniquity. If wrong is perpetrated on the needy now, Jehovah Himself will appear as their Advocate in that highest court of all. Then dreadful indeed will be the reward of those who have used the courts of earth for the furtherance of iniquity. What will be the position of the Herods and Pilates when dragged before that bar of infinite holiness?
A man is known and formed by the company he keeps. “Evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Corinthians 15:33). 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 Christian 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. A Saul is no fit friend for a David. See Proverbs 21:24.
See notes on 6:1-5 and 11:15. There are some who will never learn by rules. Therefore they must learn by bitter experience. Many people who have read the warnings of Proverbs all their lives, regarding the dangers of accepting liability for another man’s debts, have lost nearly all they had through unwise commitment to men who turned out unworthy of their confidence. Much pain and shame might have been avoided had this passage in Proverbs been heeded!
When grace rules, they who have nothing with which to pay are frankly forgiven all their debt (Luke 7:40-43). But when stern justice has to be dispensed, he who does not have the means to pay his self-imposed obligation is in danger of losing his very bed from under him.
This is almost a repetition of what God said to Moses: “Thou shalt not remove thy neighbour’s landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance, which thou shalt inherit in the land that the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it” (Deuteronomy 19:14).
Each Israelite had received his portion of land directly from Jehovah. Its borders were marked out by clearly-indicated landmarks, which all were commanded to respect. He who removed them forcibly, or in secret, would have to deal with God for his violation.
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.
Reward is sure for the diligent. He who applies himself with earnestness to his appointed labor will be noticed and recognized because of his ability. How much more when he labors for the Lord, seeking His approval, rather than that of his fellowman! “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord,” is the principle on which the believer orders his daily service (Romans 12:11). Often, one fears, we act as though it read, “Fervent in business; slothful in spirit; serving yourselves.”
He who would one day stand before the King and enjoy the sunshine of His approval, must labor now to be well-pleasing to Him. The faithful life of Daniel is a good example of this godly diligence. He was a man who, whatever the changes of government, always came to the front, standing before kings.