Proverbs 16


Man prepares, but God governs. God has made all things for

himself; he hates pride. The judgments of God. The

administration of kings; their justice, anger, and clemency.

God has made all in weight, measure, and due proportion.

Necessity produces industry. The patient man. The lot is under

the direction of the Lord.


Verse 1. The preparations of the heart in man] The Hebrew is

leadam maarchey leb, which is, literally, "To man

are the dispositions of the heart; but from the Lord is the answer

of the tongue." Man proposes his wishes; but God answers as he

thinks proper. The former is the free offspring of the heart of

man; the latter, the free volition of God. Man may think as he

pleases, and ask as he lists; but God will give, or not give,

as he thinks proper. This I believe to be the meaning of this

shamefully tortured passage, so often vexed by critics, their

doubts, and indecisions. God help them! for they seldom have the

faculty of making any subject plainer! The text does not say that

the "preparations," rather dispositions or arrangements,

maarchey, "of the heart," as well as "the answer of the tongue,

is from the Lord;" though it is generally understood so; but it

states that the dispositions or schemes of the heart (are) man's;

but the answer of the tongue (is) the Lord's. And so the principal

versions have understood it.

Hominis est animam preparare; et Domini gubernare

linguam.-VULGATE. "It is the part of man to prepare his soul: it

is the prerogative of the Lord to govern the tongue."

min bar nash taritha

delibba; umin yeya mamlala delishana.-CHALDEE. "From the son of

man is the counsel of the heart; and from the Lord is the word of

the tongue." The SYRIAC is the same. καρδιαανδροςλογζεσθω


"The heart of man deviseth righteous things, that its goings may

be directed by God."

The ARABIC takes great latitude: "All the works of an humble man

are clean before the Lord; and the wicked shall perish in an evil

day." Of a man is to maken redy the inwitt: and of the Lorde to

governe the tunge.-Old MS. Bible.

"A man maye well purpose a thinge in his harte: but the answere

of the tonge cometh of the Lorde.-COVERDALE.

MATTHEW'S Bible, 1549, and BECKE'S Bible of the same date, and

CARDMARDEN'S of 1566, follow Coverdale. The Bible printed by R.

Barker, at Cambridge, 4to., 1615, commonly called the Breeches

Bible, reads the text thus:-"The preparations of the hart are in

man; but the answere of the tongue is of the Lord." So that it

appears that our first, and all our ancient versions, understood

the text in the same way; and this, independently of critical

torture, is the genuine meaning of the Hebrew text. That very

valuable version published in Italian, at Geneva, fol. 1562,

translates thus: Le dispositioni del cuore sono de l'huomo, ma la

risposta del la lingua e dal Signore. "The dispositions of the

heart are of man; but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord."

The modern European versions, as far as I have seen, are the

same. And when the word dispositions, arrangements, schemes, is

understood to be the proper meaning of the Hebrew term, as shown

above, the sense is perfectly sound; for there may be a thousand

schemes and arrangements made in the heart of man which he may

earnestly wish God to bring to full effect, that are neither for

his good nor God's glory; and therefore it is his interest that

God has the answer in his own power. At the same time, there is no

intimation here that man can prepare his own heart to wait upon,

or pray unto the Lord; or that from the human heart any thing good

can come, without Divine influence; but simply that he may have

many schemes and projects which he may beg God to accomplish, that

are not of God, but from himself. Hence our own proverb: "Man

proposes, but God disposes." I have entered the more particularly

into the consideration of this text, because some are very

strenuous in the support of our vicious reading, from a

supposition that the other defends the heterodox opinion of man's

sufficiency to think any thing as of himself. But while they

deserve due credit for their orthodox caution, they will see that

no such imputation can fairly lie against the plain grammatical

translation of the Hebrew text.

Verse 3. Commit thy works unto the Lord] See that what thou

doest is commanded; and then begin, continue, and end all in his

name. And thy thoughts shall be established-these schemes or

arrangements, though formed in the heart, are agreeable to the

Divine will, and therefore shall be established. His thoughts-his

meditations-are right; and he begins and ends his work in the

Lord; and therefore all issues well.

Verse 4. The Lord hath made all things for himself] He has so

framed and executed every part of his creation, that it manifests

his wisdom, power, goodness, and truth.

Even the wicked for the day of evil.] vegam

rasha leyom raah. The whole verse is translated by the Chaldee

thus: "All the works of the LORD are for those who obey him; and

the wicked is reserved for the evil day."

As raah literally signifies to feed, it has been

conjectured that the clause might be read, yea, even the wicked he

feeds by the day, or daily.

If we take the words as they stand in our present version, they

mean no more than what is expressed by the Chaldee and Syriac: and

as far as we can learn from their present confused state, by the

Septuagint and Arabic, that "the wicked are reserved for the day

of punishment." Coverdale has given, as he generally does, a good

sense: "The Lorde doth all thinges for his owne sake; yea, and

when he kepeth the ungodly for the daye of wrath." He does not

make the wicked or ungodly man; but when man has made himself

such, even then God bears with him. But if he repent not, when the

measure of his iniquity is filled up, he shall fall under the

wrath of God his Maker.

Verse 5. Though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.]

The day of wrath shall come on the wicked, whatever means he may

take to avoid it. See Pr 11:21.

Verse 6. By mercy and truth iniquity is purged] This may be

misunderstood, as if a man, by showing mercy and acting according

to truth, could atone for his own iniquity. The Hebrew text is not

ambiguous: bechesed veemeth yechapper avon; "By

mercy and truth he shall atone for iniquity." He-God, by his

mercy, in sending his son Jesus into the world,-"shall make an

atonement for iniquity" according to his truth-the word which he

declared by his holy prophets since the world began. Or, if we

retain the present version, and follow the points in

yecuppar, reading "iniquity is purged" or "atoned for," the

sense is unexceptionable, as we refer the mercy and the truth to

GOD. But what an awful comment is that of Don Calmet, in which he

expresses, not only his own opinion, but the staple doctrine of

his own Church, the Romish! The reader shall have his own words:

"'L'iniquite se rachete par la misericorde et la verite.' On expie

ses pechez par des oeuvres de misericorde envers le prochein; par

la clemence, par la douceur, par compassion, par les aumones: et

par la verite-par la fidelity, la bonne foi, la droiture, l'equite

dans le commerce. Voyez Pr 3:3; 14:22; 20:28." "'Iniquity is

redeemed by mercy and truth.' We expiate our sins by works of

mercy towards our neighbour; by clemency, by kindness, by

compassion, and by alms: and by truth-by fidelity, by

trustworthiness, by uprightness, by equity in commerce." If this

be so, why was Jesus incarnated? Why his agony and bloody sweat,

his cross and passion, his death and burial, his resurrection and

ascension? Was it only to supply a sufficient portion of merit for

those who had neglected to make a fund for themselves? Is the

guilt of sin so small in the sight of Divine justice, that a man

can atone for it by manifesting good dispositions towards his

neighbours, by giving some alms, and not doing those things for

which he might be hanged? Why then did God make such a mighty

matter of the redemption of the world? Why send his Son at all? An

angel would have been more than sufficient; yea, even a sinner,

who had been converted by his own compassion, alms-deeds, &c.,

would have been sufficient. And is not this the very doctrine of

this most awfully fallen and corrupt Church? Has she not provided

a fund of merit in her saints, of what was more than requisite for

themselves, that it might be given, or sold out, to those who

had not enough of their own? Now such is the doctrine of the

Romish Church-grossly absurd, and destructively iniquitous! And

because men cannot believe this, cannot believe these

monstrosities, that Church will burn them to ashes. Ruthless

Church! degenerated, fallen, corrupt, and corrupting! once a

praise, now a curse, in the earth. Thank the blessed God, whose

blood alone can expiate sin, that he has a Church upon the earth;

and that the Romish is not the Catholic Church; and that it has

not that political power by which it would subdue all things to


Verse 7. When a man's ways please the Lord] God is the guardian

and defence of all that fear and love him; and it is truly

astonishing to see how wondrously God works in their behalf,

raising them up friends, and turning their enemies into friends.

Verse 9. A man's heart deviseth his way] This is precisely the

same sentiment as that contained in the first verse, on the true

meaning of which so much has been already said.

Verse 10. A divine sentence] kesem, "divination," as the

margin has it. Is the meaning as follows? Though divination were

applied to a righteous king's lips, to induce him to punish the

innocent and spare the guilty, yet would not his lips transgress

in judgment; so firmly attached is he to God, and so much is he

under the Divine care and influence. Whatever judgment such a one

pronounces, it may be considered as a decision from God.

Verse 11. All the weights of the bag are his] Alluding,

probably, to the standard weights laid up in a bag in the

sanctuary, and to which all weights in common use in the land

were to be referred, in order to ascertain whether they were just:

but some think the allusion is to the weights carried about by

merchants in their girdles, by which they weigh the money, silver

and gold, that they take in exchange for their merchandise. As the

Chinese take no coin but gold and silver by weight, they

carry about with them a sort of small steelyard, by which they

weigh those metals taken in exchange.

Verse 12. It is an abomination to kings, &c.] In all these

verses the wise man refers to monarchical government rightly

administered. And the proverbs on this subject are all plain.

Verse 16. How much better-to get wisdom than gold?] Who believes

this, though spoken by the wisest of men, under Divine


Verse 17. The highway of the upright] The upright man is ever

departing from evil; this is his common road: and by keeping on in

this way, his soul is preserved.

Verse 18. Pride goeth before destruction] Here pride is

personified: it walks along, and has destruction in its train.

And a haughty spirit before a fall.] Another personification. A

haughty spirit marches on, and ruin comes after.

In this verse we find the following Masoretic note in most

Hebrew Bibles. chatsi hassepher: "the middle of the

book." This verse is the middle verse; and the first clause makes

the middle of the words of the book of Proverbs.

Verse 22. Understanding is a well-spring of life]

mekor chaiyim; another allusion to the artery that carries the

blood from the heart to distribute it to all the extremities of

the body.

Verse 23. The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth] He has a

wise heart; he speaks as it dictates; and therefore his speeches

are all speeches of wisdom.

Verse 24. Pleasant words are as a honey-comb] The honey of which

is sweeter than that which has been expressed from it, and has a

much finer flavour before it has come in contact with the

atmospheric air.

Verse 25. There is a way that seemeth right] This whole verse is

precisely the same as that Pr 14:12.

Verse 26. He that laboureth] No thanks to a man for his labour

and industry; if he do not work he must starve.

Verse 27. An ungodly man diggeth up evil] How will the following


Effodiuntur opes irritamenta malorum

"Wealth, the incitement to all evil, is digged up

out the earth."

A wicked man labours as much to bring about an evil purpose, as

the quarryman does to dig up stones.

In his lips-a burning fire.] His words are as inflammable, in

producing strife and contention among his neighbours, as fire is

in igniting dry stubble.

Verse 30. He shutteth his eyes to devise, &c.] He meditates

deeply upon ways and means to commit sin. He shuts his eyes that

he may shut out all other ideas, that his whole soul may be in


Verse 31. The hoary head is a crown of glory] The latter part of

the verse is very well added, for many a sinner has a hoary head.

Verse 32. He that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a

city.] It is much easier to subdue an enemy without than one

within. There have been many kings who had conquered nations,

and yet were slaves to their own passions. Alexander, who

conquered the world, was a slave to intemperate anger, and in a

fit of it slew Clytus, the best and most intimate of all his

friends, and one whom he loved beyond all others.

The spirit of this maxim is so self-evident, that most nations

have formed similar proverbs. The classical reader will remember

the following in HOR., Odar. lib. ii., Od. 2:-

Latius regnes, avidum domando

Spiritum, quam si Libyam remotis

Gadibus jungas, et uterque Poenus

Serviat uni.

"By virtue's precepts to control

The furious passions of the soul,

Is over wider realms to reign,

Unenvied monarch, than if Spain

You could to distant Libya join,

And both the Carthages were thine."


And the following from OVID is not less striking:

--------Fortior est qui se, quam qui fortissima vincit

Moenia, nec virtus altius ire potest.

"He is more of a hero who has conquered himself, than

he who has taken the best fortified city."

Beyond this self-conquest the highest courage can not extend; nor

did their philosophy teach any thing more sublime.

Verse 33. The lot is cast into the lap] On the lot,

See Clarke on Nu 26:55. How far it may be proper

now to put difficult matters to the lot, after earnest prayer

and supplication, I cannot say. Formerly, it was both lawful and

efficient; for after it was solemnly cast, the decision was taken

as coming immediately from the Lord. It is still practiced, and

its use is allowed even by writers on civil law. But those who

need most to have recourse to the lot are those who have not piety

to pray nor faith to trust to God for a positive decision. The lot

should never be resorted to in indifferent matters; they should be

those of the greatest importance, in which it appears impossible

for human prudence or foresight to determine. In such cases the

lot is an appeal to God, and he disposes of it according to his

goodness, mercy, and truth. The result, therefore, cannot be


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