Proverbs 18


The man who separates himself and seeks wisdom. The fool and

the wicked man. Deep wisdom. Contention of fools. The

talebearer and the slothful. The name of the Lord. Pride and

presumption because of riches. Hastiness of spirit. The wounded

spirit. The influence of gifts. The lot. The offended brother.

The influence of the tongue. A wife a good from God. The true



Verse 1. Through desire a man, having separated himself] The

original is difficult and obscure. The Vulgate, Septuagint, and

Arabic, read as follows: "He who wishes to break with his

friend, and seeks occasions or pretenses, shall at all times be

worthy of blame."

My old MS. Bible translates, Occasioun seeketh that wil go awei

fro a freend: at al tyme he schal ben wariable.

Coverdale thus: "Who so hath pleasure to sowe discorde, piketh a

quarrel in every thinge."

Bible by Barker, 1615: "Fro the desire thereof he will separate

himself to seeke it, and occupie himself in all wisdome." Which

has in the margin the following note: "He that loveth wisdom will

separate himself from all impediments, and give himself wholly to

seek it."

The Hebrew: lethaavah yebakkesh

niphrad, bechol tushiyah yithgalla. The nearest translation to the

words is perhaps the following: "He who is separated shall seek

the desired thing, (i.e., the object of his desire,) and shall

intermeddle (mingle himself) with all realities or all essential

knowledge." He finds that he can make little progress in the

investigation of Divine and natural things, if he have much to

do with secular or trifling matters: he therefore separates

himself as well from unprofitable pursuits as from frivolous

company, and then enters into the spirit of his pursuit; is not

satisfied with superficial observances, but examines the substance

and essence, as far as possible, of those things which have been

the objects of his desire. This appears to me the best meaning:

the reader may judge for himself.

Verse 2. But that his heart may discover itself.] It is a fact

that most vain and foolish people are never satisfied in company,

but in showing their own nonsense and emptiness. But this verse

may be understood as confirming the view already given of the

preceding, and may be translated thus: "But a fool doth not

delight in understanding, though it should even manifest itself:"

so I understand ki im behithgalloth. The separated

person seeks understanding in every hidden thing, and feels his

toil well repaid when he finds it, even after the most painful and

expensive search: the other regards it not, though its secret

springs should be laid open to him without toil or expense.

Verse 3. When the wicked cometh, &c.] would it not be better to

read this verse thus? "When the wicked cometh contempt cometh; and

with ignominy cometh reproach." A wicked man is despised even by

the wicked. He who falls under ignominy falls under reproach.

Verse 4. The words of a man's mouth] That is, the wise sayings

of a wise man are like deep waters; howsoever much you pump or

draw off, you do not appear to lessen them.

The well-spring of wisdom] Where there is a sound understanding,

and a deep, well-informed mind, its wisdom and its counsels are an

incessant stream, mekor chochmah, "the vein of wisdom,"

ever throwing out its healthy streams: but mekor

chaiyim, "the vein of LIVES," is the reading of eight of

Kennicott's and De Rossi's MSS., and is countenanced by the

Septuagint, πηγηζωης, "the fountain of life." And so the

Arabic, [Arabic]. This is the more likely to be the true reading,

because the figure of the heart propelling the blood through the

great aorta, to send it to all parts of the animal system, is a

favourite with Solomon, as it was with his father, David.

See Clarke on Ps 36:9; "Pr 10:11", &c.

Verse 5. To accept the person of the wicked] We must not, in

judicial cases, pay any attention to a man's riches, influence,

friends, offices, &c., but judge the case according to its own

merits. But when the wicked rich man opposes and oppresses the

poor righteous, then all those things should be utterly forgotten.

Verse 8. The words of a tale-bearer] dibrey nirgan,

"the words of the whisperer," the busy-body, the busy, meddling

croaker. Verba bilinguis, "the words of the

double-tongued."-Vulgate. The wordes of the twisel tunge.-Old

MS. Bible. "The words of a slanderer."-Coverdale.

The words of a deceiver, the fair-spoken, deeply-malicious man,

though they appear soft and gracious, are wounds deeply injurious.

The original word is kemithlahamim; they are as soft

or simple, or undesigning. But Schultens gives another meaning.

He observes that [Arabic] lahamah in Arabic signifies to "swallow

down quickly or greedily." Such words are like dainties, eagerly

swallowed, because inviting to the taste; like gingerbread,

apparently gilded over, though with Dutch leaf, which is a

preparation of copper; or sweetmeats powdered over with red

candied seeds, which are thus formed by red lead; both deeply

ruinous to the tender bowels of the poor little innocents, but,

because of their sweetness and inviting colour, greedily swallowed

down. This makes a good reading, and agrees with the latter clause

of the verse, "they go down into the innermost parts of the


Verse 9. He also that is slothful] A slothful man neglects his

work, and the materials go to ruin: the waster, he destroys the

materials. They are both destroyers.

Verse 10. The name of the Lord is a strong tower] The name of

the Lord may be taken for the Lord himself; he is a strong tower,

a refuge, and place of complete safety, to all that trust in him.

What a strong fortress is to the besieged, the like is God to his

persecuted, tempted, afflicted followers.

Verse 11. The rich man's wealth] See Pr 10:15.

Verse 12. Before destruction] See on Pr 11:2; 16:18.

Verse 13. He that answereth a matter] This is a common case;

before a man can tell out his story, another will begin his.

Before a man has made his response, the other wishes to confute

piecemeal, though he has had his own speech already. This is

foolishness to them. They are ill-bred. There are many also that

give judgment before they hear the whole of the cause, and

express an opinion before they hear the state of the case. How

absurd, stupid, and foolish!

Verse 14. The spirit of a man will sustain] A man sustains the

ills of his body, and the trials of life, by the strength and

energy of his mind. But if the mind be wounded, if this be cast

down, if slow-consuming care and grief have shot the dagger into

the soul, what can then sustain the man? Nothing but the unseen

God. Therefore, let the afflicted pray. A man's own spirit has, in

general, sufficient fortitude to bear up under the unavoidable

trials of life; but when the conscience is wounded by sin, and the

soul is dying by iniquity, who can lift him up? God alone; for

salvation is of the Lord.

Verse 16. A man's gift maketh room for him] It is, and ever has

been, a base and degrading practice in Asiatic countries, to bring

a gift or present to the great man into whose presence you come.

Without this there is no audience, no favour, no justice. This

arose from the circumstance that men must not approach the altar

of God without an offering. Potentates, wishing to be considered

as petty gods, demanded a similar homage:-

Munera, crede mihi, capiunt hominesque deosque;

Placatur donis Jupiter ipse suis.


"Believe me, gifts prevail much with both gods and men:

even Jupiter himself is pleased with his own offerings."

Verse 17. He that is first in his own cause] Any man may, in the

first instance, make out a fair tale, because he has the choice of

circumstances and arguments. But when the neighbour cometh and

searcheth him, he examines all, dissects all, swears and

cross-questions every witness, and brings out truth and fact.

Verse 18. The lot causeth contentions to cease]

See Clarke on Pr 16:33.

Verse 19. A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong

city] Almost all the versions agree in the following reading: "A

brother assisted by a brother, is like a fortified city; and their

decisions are like the bars of a city." Coverdale is both plain

and terse: "The unitie of brethren is stronger then a castell, and

they that holde together are like the barre of a palace." The

fable of the dying father, his sons, and the bundle of faggots,

illustrates this proverb. Unity among brethren makes them

invincible; small things grow great by concord. If we take the

words according to the common version, we see them express what,

alas! we know to be too generally true: that when brothers fall

out, it is with extreme difficulty that they can be reconciled.

And fraternal enmities are generally strong and inveterate.

Verse 20. With the fruit of his mouth] Our own words frequently

shape our good or evil fortune in life.

Verse 21. Death and life are in the power of the tongue] This

may apply to all men. Many have lost their lives by their tongue,

and some have saved their lives by it: but it applies most

forcibly to public pleaders; on many of their tongues hangs life

or death.

Verse 22. Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing] Marriage,

with all its troubles and embarrassments, is a blessing from God;

and there are few cases where a wife of any sort is not better

than none, because celibacy is an evil; for God himself hath said,

"It is not good for man to be alone." None of the versions, except

the Chaldee, are pleased with the naked simplicity of the Hebrew

text, hence they all add good: "He that findeth a GOOD wife

findeth a good thing;" and most people, who have not deeply

considered the subject, think the assertion, without this

qualification, is absurd. Some copies of the Targum, and

apparently one of Kennicott's MSS., have the addition tobah,

good; but this would be an authority too slender to justify

changing the Hebrew text; yet Houbigant, Kennicott, and other able

critics argue for it. The Septuagint is not satisfied without an

addition: "But he who puts away a good wife, puts away a good

thing: and he that retains an adulteress, is a fool and wicked."

In this addition the Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic, agree with the

Septuagint. The Hebrew text as it stands, teaches a general

doctrine by a simple but general proposition: "He that findeth a

wife findeth a good thing." So St. Paul: "Marriage is honourable

in all." Had the world been left, in this respect, to the

unbridled propensities of man, in what a horrible state would

society have been-if indeed society could have existed, or

civilization have taken place-if marriage had not obtained among

men! As to good wives and bad wives, they are relatively so, in

general; and most of them that have been bad afterwards, have been

good at first; and we well know the best things may deteriorate,

and the world generally allows that where there are matrimonial

contentions, there are faults on both sides.

Verse 24. A man that hath friends must show himself friendly]

Love begets love; and love requires love as its recompense. If a

man do not maintain a friendly carriage, he cannot expect to

retain his friends. Friendship is a good plant; but it requires

cultivation to make it grow.

There is a kind of factitious friendship in the world, that, to

show one's self friendly in it, is very expensive, and in every

way utterly unprofitable: it is maintained by expensive parties,

feasts, &c., where the table groans with dainties, and where the

conversation is either jejune and insipid, or calumnious;

backbiting, talebearing, and scandal, being the general topics of

the different squads in company.

There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.] In many

cases the genuine friend has shown more attachment, and rendered

greater benefits, than the natural brother. Some apply this to

God; others to Christ; but the text has no such meaning.

But critics and commentators are not agreed on the translation

of this verse. The original is condensed and obscure.

ish reim lehithroea, or lehithroeang, as some

would read, who translate: A man of friends may ring again; i.e.,

he may boast and mightily exult: but there is a friend, oheb,

a lover, that sticketh closer, dabek, is glued or

cemented, meach, beyond, or more than, a brother. The former

will continue during prosperity, but the latter continues closely

united to his friend, even in the most disastrous circumstances.

Hence that maxim of Cicero, so often repeated, and so well


Amicus certus in re incerta cernitur.

"In doubtful times the genuine friend is known."

A late commentator has translated the verse thus:-

The man that hath many friends is ready to be ruined:

But there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.


"A frende that delyteth in love, doth a man more frendship, and

sticketh faster unto him, than a brother."-Coverdale.

"A man that hath friends ought to show himself friendly, for a

friend is nearer than a brother."-BARKER'S Bible, 1615.

"A man amyable to felowschip, more a freend schal ben thanne a

brother."-Old MS. Bible. The two last verses in this chapter, and

the two first of the next, are wanting in the Septuagint and


These are the principal varieties; out of them the reader may

choose. I have already given my opinion.

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