Proverbs 26

CHAPTER XXVI

Honour is not seemly in a fool. The correction and treatment

suitable to such. Of the slothful man. Of him who interferes

with matters which do not concern him. Contentions to be

avoided. Of the dissembler and the lying tongue.

NOTES ON CHAP. XXVI

Verse 1. As snow in summer] None of these is suitable to the

time; and at this unsuitable time, both are unwelcome: so a fool

to be in honour is unbecoming.

Verse 2. As the bird] tsippor is taken often for the

sparrow; but means generally any small bird. As the sparrow

flies about the house, and the swallow emigrates to strange

countries; so an undeserved malediction may flutter about the

neighbourhood for a season: but in a short time it will disappear

as the bird of passage; and never take effect on the innocent

person against whom it was pronounced.

Verse 3. A whip for the horse] Correction is as suitable to a

fool, as a whip is for a horse, or a bridle for an ass.

Verse 4. Answer not a fool] On this and the following verse

Bishop Warburton, who has written well on many things, and very

indifferently on the doctrine of grace, has written with force and

perspicuity: "Had this advice been given simply, and without

circumstance, to answer the fool, and not to answer him, one who

had reverence for the text would satisfy himself in supposing that

the different directions referred to the doing a thing in and out

of season; 1. The reasons given why a fool should not be answered

according to his folly, is, "lest he (the answerer) should be like

unto him." 2. The reason given why the fool should be answered

according to his folly, is, "lest he (the fool) should be wise in

his own conceit."

"1. The cause assigned for forbidding to answer, therefore,

plainly insinuates that the defender of religion should not

imitate the insulter of it in his modes of disputation, which may

be comprised in sophistry, buffoonery, and scurrility.

"2. The cause assigned for directing to answer, as plainly

intimates that the sage should address himself to confute the fool

upon his own false principles, by showing that they lead to

conclusions very wide from, very opposite to, those impieties he

would deduce from them. If any thing can allay the fool's vanity,

and prevent his being wise in his own conceit, it must be the

dishonour of having his own principles turned against himself, and

shown to be destructive of his own conclusions."-Treatise on

Grace. Preface.

Verse 6. Cutteth off the feet] Sending by such a person is

utterly useless. My old MS. Bible translates well: Halt in feet

and drinking wickednesse that sendith wordis bi a foole messager.

Nothing but lameness in himself can vindicate his sending it by

such hands; and, after all, the expedient will be worse than the

total omission, for he is likely to drink wickedness, i.e., the

mischief occasioned by the fool's misconduct. Coverdale nearly

hits the sense as usual: "He is lame of his fete, yee dronken is

he in vanite, that committeth eny thinge to a foole."

Verse 8. As he that bindeth a stone in a sling, so is he that

giveth honour to a fool.] It is entirely thrown away. This,

however, is a difficult proverb; and the versions give but little

light on the subject. The Hebrew may be translated, "As a piece of

precious stone among a heap of stones, so is he that giveth honour

to a fool." See the margin, and Parkhurst: but on this

interpretation the meaning would rather be, "It is as useless to

throw a jewel among a heap of stones to increase its bulk, as to

give honour to a fool."

As he that sendith a stoon into a hepe of monee; so he that

geveth to an unwiisman wirschip.-Old MS. Bible.

"He that setteth a foole in hye dignite, that is even as yf a

man dyd caste a precious stone upon the galous."-Coverdale. This

translator refers to the custom of throwing a stone to the heap

under which a criminal lay buried. The Vulgate gives some

countenance to this translation: "He who gives honour to a fool is

like one who throws a stone to Mercury's heap." Mercury was

considered the deity who presided over the highways; and stones

were erected in different places to guide the traveller. Hence

those lines of Dr. Young:-

"Death stands like Mercuries in every way;

And kindly points us to our journey's end."

Verse 10. The great God that formed all things] See the margin,

where this verse is very differently translated. I shall add that

of Coverdale: "A man of experience discerneth all thinges well:

but whoso hyreth a foole, hyreth soch one as wyl take no hede."

The rab may mean either the great God, or a great man: hence

the two renderings, in the text and in the margin.

Verse 11. As a dog returneth to his vomit]

See Clarke on 2Pe 2:22.

Verse 13. The slothful man saith]

See Clarke on Pr 22:13.

Verse 16. Than seven men that can render a reason.] Seven here

only means perfection, abundance, or multitude. He is wiser in his

own eyes than a multitude of the wisest men. "Than seven men that

sytt and teach."-Coverdale; i.e., than seven doctors of the law,

or heads of the schools of the prophets, who always sat while

they taught.

Verse 17. He that passeth by] This proverb stands true

ninety-nine times out of a hundred, where people meddle with

domestic broils, or differences between men and their wives.

Verse 19. Am not I in sport?] How many hearts have been made

sad, and how many reputations have been slain, by this kind of

sport! "I designed no harm by what I said;" "It was only in

jest," &c. Sportive as such persons may think their conduct to be,

it is as ruinous as that of the madman who shoots arrows, throws

firebrands, and projects in all directions instruments of death,

so that some are wounded, some burnt, and some slain.

Verse 20. Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out] The

tale-receiver and the tale-bearer are the agents of discord. If

none received the slander in the first instance, it could not be

propagated. Hence our proverb, "The receiver is as bad as the

thief." And our laws treat them equally; for the receiver of

stolen goods, knowing them to be stolen, is hanged, as well as he

who stole them.

Verse 22. The words of a tale-bearer] The same with Pr 18:8,

where see the note. See Clarke on Pr 18:8.

Verse 23. Burning lips and a wicked heart] Splendid, shining,

smooth lips; that is, lips which make great professions of

friendship are like a vessel plated over with base metal to make

it resemble silver; but it is only a vile pot, and even the

outside is not pure.

Verse 25. When he speaketh fair] For there are such hypocrites

and false friends in the world.

Believe him not] Let all his professions go for nothing.

For there are seven abominations in his heart.] That is, he is

full of abominations.

Verse 27. Whoso diggeth a pit] See Clarke on Ps 7:15.

There is a Latin proverb like this: Malum consilium consultori

pessimum, "A bad counsel, but worst to the giver."

Harm watch; harm catch.

Verse 28. A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it]

He that injures another hates him in proportion to the injury he

has done him; and, strange to tell, in proportion to the innocence

of the oppressed. The debtor cannot bear the sight of his

creditor; nor the knave, of him whom he has injured.

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