Proverbs 21


The king's heart is in the hand of God. We should practise

mercy and justice. The lying tongue. The quarrelsome woman.

The punishment of the wicked. The uncharitable. The private

gift. The happiness of the righteous. The wicked a ransom for

the righteous. The treasures of the wise. He who guards his

tongue. Desire of the sluggard. The false witness. Salvation

is of the Lord.


Verse 1. The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord] The Lord

is the only ruler of princes. He alone can govern and direct their

counsels. But there is an allusion here to the Eastern method of

watering their lands. Several canals are dug from one stream; and

by opening a particular sluice, the husbandman can direct a stream

to whatever part he please: so the king's heart, wherever it

turns; i.e., to whomsoever he is disposed to show favour. As the

land is enriched with the streams employed in irrigation; so is

the favourite of the king, by the royal bounty: and God can induce

the king to give that bounty to whomsoever he will. See Harmer.

Verse 2. The Lord pondereth the hearts.] Every man feels

strongly attached to his own opinions, modes of acting, &c.; and

though he will not easily give up any thing to the judgment of a

neighbour, whom he will naturally consider at least as fallible as

himself, yet he should consider that the unerring eye of God is

upon him; and he should endeavour to see that what he does is

acceptable in the eye of his Maker and Judge.

Verse 3. To do justice and judgment] The words of Samuel to

Saul. See Clarke on 1Sa 15:23.

Verse 4. A high look] The evidence of pride, self-conceit, and

vanity. A proud heart, from which the high look, &c., come.

And the ploughing] ner, lucerna, the lamp, the

prosperity and posterity of the wicked; is sin-it is evil in the

seed, and evil in the root, evil in the branch, and evil in the

fruit. They are full of sin themselves, and what they do is


Verse 6. Of them that seek death] Instead of mebakshey,

"them that seek," several MSS., some ancient editions, with

Symmachus, the Septuagint, Vulgate, and Arabic, have

mokeshey, the snares. He who gets treasures by a lying tongue,

pursues vanity into the snares of death. Our common translation

may be as good. But he who, by the snares of his tongue,

endeavours to buy and sell to the best advantage, is pursuing

what is empty in itself; and he is ensnared by death, while

he is attempting to ensnare others.

Verse 7. The robbery of the wicked] The wicked shall be

terrified and ruined by the means they use to aggrandize

themselves. And as they refuse to do judgment, they shall have

judgment without mercy.

Verse 9. In a corner of the housetop] A shed raised on the flat

roof:-a wide house; beith chaber, "a house of

fellowship;" what we should call a lodging-house, or a house

occupied by several families. This was usual in the East, as well

as in the West. Some think a house of festivity is meant: hence my

old MS. Bible has, the hous and feste.

Verse 11. When the scorner is punished] When those who mock at

religion, blaspheme against its Author, and endeavour to poison

society, and disturb the peace of the community by their false

doctrine, meet with that degree of punishment which their crimes,

as far as they affect the public peace, deserve; then the simple,

who were either led away, or in danger of being led away, by their

pernicious doctrines, are made wise. And when those thus made wise

are instructed in the important truths which have been decried by

those unprincipled men, then they receive knowledge; and one such

public example is made a blessing to thousands. But only blasphemy

against God and the Bible should be thus punished. Private opinion

the state should not meddle with.

Verse 12. The righteous man wisely considereth] This verse is

understood as implying the pious concern of a righteous man, for a

wicked family, whom he endeavours by his instructions to bring

into the way of knowledge and peace.

Verse 13. Whoso stoppeth his ears] See the conduct of the priest

and Levite to the man who fell among thieves; and let every man

learn from this, that he who shuts his ear against the cry of the

poor, shall have the ear of God shut against his cry. The words

are quite plain; there is no difficulty here.

Verse 16. The man once enlightened, that wandereth out of the

way of understanding, in which he had walked, shall remain-have a

permanent residence-in the congregation of the dead;

rephaim, the lost; either separate spirits in general, or rather

the assembly of separate spirits, which had fallen from primitive

rectitude; and shall not be restored to the Divine favour;

particularly those sinners who were destroyed by the deluge. This

passage intimates that those called rephaim are in a state of

conscious existence. It is difficult to assign the true meaning of

the word in several places where it occurs: but it seems to mean

the state of separate spirits, i.e., of those separated from their

bodies, and awaiting the judgment of the great day: but the

congregation may also include the fallen angels. My old MS.

Bible translates, The man that errith fro the wei of doctrine, in

the felowschip of geantis schal wonnen.

Verse 17. He that loveth pleasure] That follows gaming, fowling,

hunting, coursing, &c., when he should be attending to the culture

of the fields, shall be a poor man; and, I may safely add, shall

be so deservedly poor, as to have none to pity him.

Verse 18. The wicked shall be a ransom for the righteous] God

often in his judgments cuts off the wicked, in order to prevent

them from destroying the righteous. And in general, we find that

the wicked fall into the traps and pits they have digged for the


Verse 22. A wise man scaleth the city of the mighty] Wisdom is

in many respects preferable to strength, even in the case of

defence. See what skill does in the fortification and reduction of

strong places.

Verse 25. The desire of the slothful killeth him] He desires to

eat, drink, and be clothed: but as he does not labour, hence he

dies with this desire in his heart, envying those who possess

plenty through their labour and industry. Hence he is said to

covet greedily all the day long, Pr 21:26, while the

righteous, who has been laborious and diligent, has enough to

eat, and some to spare.

Verse 27. When he bringeth it with a wicked mind?] If such a

person even bring the sacrifices and offerings which God requires,

they are an abomination to him, because the man is wicked; and if

such offerings be imperfect in themselves, or of goods ill-gotten,

or offered by constraint of custom, &c., they are doubly


Verse 29. He directeth his way] Instead of yachin, he

directeth, upwards of fifty of Kennicott's and De Rossi's

MSS., several ancient editions with some of the versions, read

yabin, he understands; and because he understands his way,

he is able to direct himself in walking in it.

Verse 31. The horse is prepared against the day of battle]

Horses were not used among the Jews before the time of Solomon.

There was a Divine command against them, De 17:16; but Solomon

transgressed it; see 1Ki 10:29. But he here allows that a horse

is a vain thing for safety; and that however strong and well

appointed cavalry may be, still safety, escape, and victory, are

of the Lord. Among the ancient Asiatics, the horse was used only

for war; oxen laboured in the plough and cart; the ass and

the camel carried backloads; and mules and asses served for

riding. We often give the credit of a victory to man, when they

who consider the circumstances see that it came from God.

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