Proverbs 14


Various moral sentiments. The antithesis between wisdom and

folly, and the different effects of each.


Verse 1. Every wise woman buildeth her house] By her prudent and

industrious management she increases property in the family,

furniture in the house, and food and raiment for her

household. This is the true building of a house. The thriftless

wife acts differently, and the opposite is the result. Household

furniture, far from being increased, is dilapidated; and her

household are ill-fed, ill-clothed, and worse educated.

Verse 3. The mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride] The

reproofs of such a person are ill-judged and ill-timed, and

generally are conveyed in such language as renders them not only

ineffectual, but displeasing, and even irritating.

Verse 4. But much increase is by the strength of the ox.] The ox

is the most profitable of all the beasts used in husbandry. Except

merely for speed, he is almost in every respect superior to the

horse. 1. He is longer lived. 2. Scarcely liable to any diseases.

3. He is steady, and always pulls fair in his gears. 4. He lives,

fattens, and maintains his strength on what a horse will not eat,

and therefore is supported on one third the cost. 5. His manure is

more profitable. And, 6, When he is worn out in his labour his

flesh is good for the nourishment of man, his horns of great

utility, and his hide almost invaluable. It might be added, he is

little or no expense in shoeing, and his gears are much more

simple, and much less expensive, than those of the horse. In all

large farms oxen are greatly to be preferred to horses. Have but

patience with this most patient animal, and you will soon find

that there is much increase by the strength and labour of the ox.

Verse 6. A scorner seeketh wisdom] I believe the scorner means,

in this book, the man that despises the counsel of God; the

infidel. Such may seek wisdom; but he never can find it, because

he does not seek it where it is to be found; neither in the

teaching of God's Spirit, nor in the revelation of his will.

Verse 7. When thou perceivest not-the lips of knowledge.]

Instead of daath, knowledge, several MSS. have sheker,

a lie. How this reading came I cannot conjecture. The meaning of

the adage is plain: Never associate with a vain, empty fellow,

when thou perceivest he can neither convey nor receive


Verse 8. Is to understand his way] Instead of habin, to

understand, hachin, to DIRECT his way, is found in one MS.

It makes a very good sense.

Verse 9. Fools make a mock at sin] And only fools would do so.

But he that makes a sport of sinning, will find it no sport to

suffer the vengeance of an eternal fire. Some learned men by their

criticisms have brought this verse into embarrassments, out of

which they were not able to extricate it. I believe we shall not

come much nearer the sense than our present version does.

Verse 10. The heart knoweth his own bitterness] morrath

naphsho, "The bitterness of its soul." Under spiritual sorrow, the

heart feels, the soul feels; all the animal nature feels and

suffers. But when the peace of God is spoken to the troubled soul,

the joy is indescribable; the whole man partakes of it. And a

stranger to these religious feelings, to the travail of the soul,

and to the witness of the Spirit, does not intermeddle with them;

he does not understand them: indeed they may be even foolishness

to him, because they are spiritually discerned.

Verse 12. There is a way which seemeth right unto a man] This

may be his easily besetting sin, the sin of his constitution, the

sin of his trade. Or it may be his own false views of religion:

he may have an imperfect repentance, a false faith, a very false

creed; and he may persuade himself that he is in the direct way to

heaven. Many of the papists, when they were burning the saints of

God in the flames at Smithfield, thought they were doing God

service! And in the late Irish massacre, the more of the

Protestants they piked to death, shot, or burnt, the more they

believed they deserved of God's favour and their Church's

gratitude. But cruelty and murder are the short road, the near

way, to eternal perdition.

Verse 13. Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful] Many a time

is a smile forced upon the face, when the heart is in deep

distress. And it is a hard task to put on the face of mirth, when

a man has a heavy heart.

Verse 14. The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own

ways] 1. Who is the backslider? sug. 1. The man who once

walked in the ways of religion, but has withdrawn from them. 2.

The man who once fought manfully against the world, the devil, and

the flesh; but has retreated from the battle, or joined the enemy.

3. The man who once belonged to the congregation of the saints,

but is now removed from them, and is set down in the synagogue of


2. But who is the backslider in HEART? 1. Not he who was

surprised and overcome by the power of temptation, and the

weakness of his own heart. 2. But he who drinks down iniquity with

greediness. 3. Who gives cheerful way to the bent of his own

nature, and now delights in fulfilling the lusts of the flesh and

of the mind. 4. Who loves sin as before he loved godliness.

3. What are his own ways? Folly, sin, disappointment, and death;

with the apprehension of the wrath of God, and the sharp twingings

of a guilty conscience.

4. What is implied in being filled with his own ways? Having his

soul saturated with folly, sin, and disappointment. At last ending

here below in death, and then commencing an eternal existence

where the fire is not quenched, and under the influence of that

worm that never dieth. Alas, alas! who may abide when God doeth


And a good man shall be satisfied from himself.] 1. Who is the

good man? ( ish tob.) 1. The man whose heart is right with

God, whose tongue corresponds to his heart, and whose actions

correspond to both. 2. The man who is every thing that the sinner

and backslider are not.

2. He shall be satisfied from himself-he shall have the

testimony of his own conscience, that in simplicity and godly

sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, he

has his conversation among men.

3. He shall have God's Spirit to testify with his spirit that he

is a child of God. He hath the witness in himself that he is born

from above. The Spirit of God in his conscience, and the testimony

of God in his Bible, show him that he belongs to the heavenly

family. It is not from creeds or confessions of faith that he

derives his satisfaction: he gets it from heaven, and it is sealed

upon his heart.

Verse 16. A wise man feareth] He can never trust in himself,

though he be satisfied from himself. He knows that his suffiency

is of GOD; and he has that fear that causes him to depart from

evil, which is a guardian to the love he feels. Love renders him

cautious; the other makes him confident. His caution leads him

from sin; his confidence leads him to God.

Verse 17. He that is soon angry] ketsar appayim,

"short of nostrils:" because, when a man is angry, his nose is

contracted, and drawn up towards his eyes.

Dealeth foolishly] He has no time for reflection; he is hurried

on by his passions, speaks like a fool, and acts like a madman.

Verse 19. The evil bow before the good] They are almost

constrained to show them respect; and the wicked, who have

wasted their substance with riotous living, bow before the gates

of the righteous-of benevolent men-begging a morsel of bread.

Verse 20. But the rich hath many friends.] Many who speak to

him the language of friendship; but if they profess friendship

because he is rich, there is not one real friend among them. There

is a fine saying of Cicero on this subject: Ut hirundines festivo

tempore praesto sunt, frigore pulsae recedunt: ita falsi amici

sereno tempore praesto sunt: simul atque fortunae hiemem viderint,

evolant omnes.-Lib. iv., ad Herenn. "They are like swallows, who

fly off during the winter, and quit our cold climates; and do not

return till the warm season: but as soon as the winter sets in,

they are all off again." So Horace:-

Donec eris felix, multos numerabis amicos:

Nullus ad amissas ibit amicus opes.

"As long as thou art prosperous, thou shalt have many friends:

but who of them will regard thee when thou hast lost thy wealth?"

Verse 21. He that despiseth his neighbor sinneth] To despise a

man because he has some natural blemish is unjust, cruel, and

wicked. He is not the author of his own imperfections; they did

not occur through his fault or folly; and if he could, he would

not retain them. It is, therefore, unjust and wicked to despise

him for what is not his fault, but his misfortune.

But he that hath mercy on the poor] Who reproaches no man for

his poverty or scanty intellect, but divides his bread with the

hungry-happy is he; the blessing of God, and of them that were

ready to perish, shall come upon him.

Verse 23. In all labour there is profit] If a man work at his

trade, he gains by it; if he cultivate the earth, it will yield an

increase; and in proportion as he labours, so will be his profit:

but he who talks much labours little. And a man of words is

seldom a man of deeds. Less talk and more work, is one of our own

ancient advices.

Verse 24. But the foolishness of fools is folly.] The Targum

reads, The honour of fools is folly. The fool, from his

foolishness, produces acts of folly. This appears to be the


Verse 26. In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence] From

this, and from genuine Christian experience, we find that the fear

of God is highly consistent with the strongest confidence in his

mercy and goodness.

Verse 27. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life]

mekor chaiyim, the vein of lives. Another allusion to the great

aorta which carries the blood from the heart to all the

extremities of the body. Of this phrase, and the tree of lives,

Solomon is particularly fond. See on Pr 4:23; 10:12.

Verse 28. In the multitude of people] It is the interest of

every state to promote marriage by every means that is just and

prudent; and to discourage, disgrace, and debase celibacy; to

render bachelors incapable, after a given age, of all public

employments: and to banish nunneries and monasteries from all

parts of their dominions;-they have ever, from their invention,

contributed more to vice than virtue; and are positively point

blank against the law of God.

Verse 29. That is hasty of spirit] ketsar ruach, "the

short of spirit;" one that is easily irritated; and, being in a

passion, he is agitated so as to be literally short of breath.

Here put in opposition to erech appayim, long of

nostrils; see on Pr 14:17; and of the same import with St.

Paul's μακροθυμια, longsuffering, longmindedness. See on Eph 4:2.

Verse 30. A sound heart is the life of the flesh] A healthy

state of the blood, and a proper circulation of that stream of

life, is the grand cause, in the hand of God, of health and

longevity. If the heart be diseased, life cannot be long


Verse 31. He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker]

Because the poor, or comparatively poor, are, in the order of God,

a part of the inhabitants of the earth; and every man who loves

God will show mercy to the poor, for with this God is peculiarly

delighted. The poor have we ever with us, for the excitement and

exercise of those benevolent, compassionate, and merciful

feelings, without which men had been but little better than


Verse 32. The wicked is driven away in his wickedness] He does

not leave life cheerfully. Poor soul! Thou hast no hope in the

other world, and thou leavest the present with the utmost regret!

Thou wilt not go off; but God will drive thee.

But the righteous hath hope in his death.] He rejoiceth to

depart and be with Christ: to him death is gain; he is not

reluctant to go-he flies at the call of God.

Verse 34. But sin is a reproach to any people.] I am satisfied

this is not the sense of the original, vechesed

leummim chattath; which would be better rendered, And mercy is a

sin-offering for the people. The Vulgate has, Miseros autem facit

populos peccatum, "sin makes the people wretched." ελασσονουσιδε

φυλαςαμαρτιαι; "But sins lessen the tribes."-Septuagint. So also

the Syriac and Arabic. The plain meaning of the original seems to

be, A national disposition to mercy appears in the sight of God as

a continual sin-offering. Not that it atones for the sin of the

people; but, as a sin-offering is pleasing in the sight of the God

of mercy, so is a merciful disposition in a nation. This view of

the verse is consistent with the purest doctrines of free grace.

And what is the true sense of the words, we should take at all

hazards and consequences: we shall never trench upon a sound creed

by a literal interpretation of God's words. No nation has more of

this spirit than the British nation. It is true, we have too many

sanguinary laws; but the spirit of the people is widely


If any one will contend for the common version, he has my

consent; and I readily agree in the saying, Sin is the reproach of

any people. It is the curse and scandal of man. Though I think

what I have given is the true meaning of the text.

Verse 35. The king's favour is toward a wise servant] The king

should have an intelligent man for his minister; a man of deep

sense, sound judgment, and of a feeling, merciful disposition. He

who has not the former will plunge the nation into difficulties;

and he who has not the latter will embark her in disastrous wars.

Most wars are occasioned by bad ministers, men of blood, who

cannot be happy but in endeavouring to unchain the spirit of

discord. Let every humane heart pray, Lord, scatter thou the

people who delight in war! Amen-so be it. Selah!

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