Proverbs 24


Do not be envious. Of the house wisely built. Counsel necessary

in war. Save life when thou canst. Of honey and the honey-comb.

Of the just that falleth seven times. We should not rejoice at

the misfortune of others. Ruin of the wicked. Fear God and the

king. Prepare thy work. The field of the sluggard, and the

vineyard of the foolish, described.


Verse 3. Through wisdom is a house blinded] That is, a family;

household affairs. See Clarke on Pr 9:1, &c.

Verse 5. A wise man is strong.] His wisdom enables him to

construct a great variety of machines, by which, under his own

influence, he can do the labour of a hundred or even a thousand

men. But in all cases wisdom gives power and influence; and he

who is wise to salvation can overcome even Satan himself. The

Septuagint has: "The wise is better than the strong; and the man

who has prudence, than a stout husbandman."

Verse 6. By wise counsel thou shalt make thy war]

See Clarke on Pr 20:18.

Verse 7. A fool-openeth not his mouth in the gate.] Is not put

into public offices of trust and responsibility.

Verse 9. The thought of foolishness is sin]

zimmath ivveleth chattath. "The device of folly is

transgression;" or, "an evil purpose is sinful;" or, perhaps more

literally, "the device of the foolish is sin." It has been

variously understood by the versions.

"The cunning: of the fool is sin."-Targum.

"The imprudent man (or fool, αφρων) shall die in


So the Arabic.

The thinkynge of the fool is synne.-Old MS. Bible.

Fool is here taken for a wicked man, who is not only evil in his

actions, but every thought of his heart is evil, and that

continually. A simple thought about foolishness, or about sin

itself, is not sinful; it is the purpose or device, the harbouring

evil thoughts, and devising how to sin, that is criminal.

Verse 10. If thou faint] If thou give way to discouragement and

despair in the day of adversity-time of trial or temptation.

Thy strength is small.] tsar cochachah, thy

strength is contracted. So the old MS. Bible excellently: Gif

sliden thou dispeire, in the dai of anguyfs, schal be made litil

thy strengthe. In times of trial we should endeavour to be doubly

courageous; when a man loses his courage, his strength avails him


Verse 11. If thou forbear to deliver] If thou seest the innocent

taken by the hand of lawless power or superstitious zeal, and they

are about to be put to death, thou shouldst rise up in their

behalf, boldly plead for them, testify to their innocence when

thou knowest it; and thus thou wilt not be guilty of blood; which

thou wouldst be, if, through any pretense, thou shouldst neglect

to save the life of a man unjustly condemned.

Verse 13. And the honey-comb] I have often had occasion to

remark how much finer the flavour of honey is in the honey-comb

than it is after it has been expressed from it, and exposed to the

action of the air. But it has been asserted that the honey-comb is

never eaten; it must be by those who have no acquaintance with the

apiary. I have seen the comb with its contained honey eaten

frequently, and of it I have repeatedly partaken. And that our

Lord ate it, is evident from Lu 24:42. Nor can any man who has

not eaten it in this way feel the full force of the allusions to

the honey-comb and its sweetness in several parts of the sacred

writings. See 1Sa 14:27; Ps 19:10; Pr 5:3; 16:24; 27:7;

So 4:11; 5:1; and the place before us.

Verse 14. So shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul]

True religion, experimental godliness, shall be to thy soul as the

honey-comb is to thy mouth.

Then there shall be a reward, and thy expectation shall not be

cut off.] This is precisely the same with that in the preceding

chapter, Pr 23:18, where see the note. See Clarke on Pr 23:18.

The word acharith, we translate in the former place

an end, and here we translate it a reward; but there is no place I

believe in the sacred writings in which it has any such acceptation; nor

can such a meaning be deduced from the root achar, which always

refers to behind, after, extremity, latter part, time, &c., but never

carries the idea of recompense, compensation, or such like; nor

has one of the versions understood it so. There is another state

or life, and thy expectation of happiness in a future world shall

not be cut off. In this sense the versions all understood it. I

will take them as they lie before me.

"Which (wisdom) when thou shalt have found, thou shalt have hope

in thy last days; and thy hope shall not perish."-Vulgate.

"And if thou find it, thou shalt have a good death; and hope

shall not forsake thee."-Septuagint.

"Which, if thou have found, thy latter days shall be better than

the former; and thy hope shall not be consumed."-Chaldee.

"There shall be an end, and thy hope shall not be cut


"For, if thou shalt find her, (wisdom,) thy death shall be

glorious, and thy hope will not fail thee."-Arabic.

Whiche whan thou fyndist schalt han in the last thingis, hope:

and thin hope schal not perischen.-Old MS. Bible.

"And there is GOOD HOPE; yee that hope shal not be in


This rendering is indefinite, which is not the usual custom of

the translator.

Verse 15. The dwelling of the righteous] tsaddik, the man

who is walking unblameably in all the testimonies of God; who is

rendering to every man his due.

Verse 16. For a just man] tsaddik, the righteous, the

same person mentioned above.

Falleth seven times] Gets very often into distresses through his

resting place being spoiled by the wicked man, the robber, the

spoiler of the desert, lying in wait for this purpose, Pr 24:15.

And riseth up again] Though God permit the hand of violence

sometimes to spoil his tent, temptations to assail his mind, and

afflictions to press down his body, he constantly emerges; and

every time he passes through the furnace, he comes out brighter

and more refined.

But the wicked shall fall into mischief.] And there they shall

lie; having no strong arm to uphold them. Yet,

Verse 17. Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, (into this

mischief,) and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth] When

he meets with any thing that injures him; for God will not have

thee to avenge thyself, or feel any disposition contrary to love;

for if thou do, the Lord will be angry, and may turn away his

wrath from him, and pour it out on thee.

This I believe to be the true sense of these verses: but we must

return to the sixteenth, as that has been most sinfully


For a just man falleth seven times.-That is, say many, "the most

righteous man in the world sins seven times a day on an average."

Solomon does not say so:-1. There is not a word about sin in the

text. 2. The word day is not in the Hebrew text, nor in any of the

versions. 3. The word yippol, from naphal, to

fall, is never applied to sin. 4. When set in opposition to the

words riseth up, it merely applies to affliction or calamity. See

Mic 7:8; Am 8:4; Jer 25:27; and Ps 34:19, 20. "The

righteous falls into trouble." See above.

Mr. Holden has a very judicious note on this passage: "Injure

not a righteous man; for, though he frequently falls into

distress, yet, by the superintending care of Providence, 'he

riseth up again,' is delivered from his distress, while the wicked

are overwhelmed with their misfortunes. That this is the meaning

is plain from the preceding and following verses: yet some expound

it by the just man often relapsing into sin, and recovering from

it; nay, it has even been adduced to prove the doctrine of the

final perseverance of the elect. But is never used for falling

into sin, but into distress and affliction-as

Pr 11:5, 14; 13:17; 17:20; 26:27; 28:10, 14, 18."

Verse 18. And he turn away his wrath from him.] Wrath is here

taken for the effect of wrath, punishment; and the meaning must be

as paraphrased above-lest he take the punishment from him, and

inflict it upon thee. And in this way Coverdale understood it:

"Lest the Lorde be angry, and turn his wrath from him unto thee."

Or we may understand it thus: Lest the Lord inflict on thee a

similar punishment; for if thou get into his spirit, rejoicing

in the calamities of another, thou deservest punishment.

Verse 20. For there shall be no reward to the evil man]

acharith. There shall not be the future state of blessedness to

the wicked. See Clarke on Pr 24:14.

His candle shall be put out; his prosperity shall finally cease,

or he shall have no posterity. Some have thought that this text

intimates the annihilation of sinners; but it refers not to being,

but to the state or condition of that being. The wicked shall be;

but they shall not be HAPPY.

Verse 21. My son, fear thou the Lord and the king] Pay to each

the homage due: to the LORD, Divine honour and adoration; to the

king, civil respect, civil honour, and political obedience.

Meddle not with them that are given to change]

im shonim al titharab: "And with the changelings mingle not

thyself." The innovators; those who are always for making

experiments on modes of government, forms of religion, &c. The

most dangerous spirit that can infect the human mind.

Verse 22. The ruin of them both?] Of them who do not fear the

LORD; and of them that do not reverence the KING.

Verse 23. These things also belong to the wise.]

gam elleh lachachamim, "These also to wise." This

appears to be a new section; and perhaps, what follows belongs to

another collection. Probably fragments of sayings collected by

wise men from the Proverbs of Solomon.

It is not good to have respect] Judgment and justice should

never be perverted.

Verse 26. Kiss his lips] Shall treat him with affection and


Verse 27. Prepare thy work without] Do nothing without a plan.

In winter prepare seed, implements, tackle, geers, &c., for

seed-time and harvest.

Verse 28. Be not a witness] Do not be forward to offer thyself

to bear testimony against a neighbour, in a matter which may

prejudice him, where the essential claims of justice do not

require such interference; and especially do not do this in a

spirit of revenge, because he has injured thee before.

Verse 30. I went by the field of the slothful] This is a most

instructive parable; is exemplified every day in a variety of

forms; and is powerfully descriptive of the state of many a

blackslider and trifler in religion. Calmet has an excellent

note on this passage. I shall give the substance of it.

Solomon often recommends diligence and economy to his disciples.

In those primitive times when agriculture was honourable, no man

was respected who neglected to cultivate his grounds, who sunk

into poverty, contracted debt, or engaged in ruinous securities.

With great propriety, a principal part of wisdom was considered by

them as consisting in the knowledge of properly conducting one's

domestic affairs, and duly cultivating the inheritances derived

from their ancestors. Moses had made a law to prevent the rich

from utterly depressing the poor, by obliging them to return their

farms to them on the Sabbatic year, and to remit all debts at the

year of jubilee.

In the civil state of the Hebrews, we never see those enormous

and suddenly raised fortunes, which never subsist but in the ruin

of numberless families. One of the principal solicitudes of this

legislator was to produce, as far as possible in a monarchical

state, an equality of property and condition. The ancient Romans

held agriculture in the same estimation, and highly respected

those who had applied themselves to it with success. When they

spoke in praise of a man, they considered themselves as giving no

mean commendation when they called him a good husbandman, an

excellent labourer. From such men they formed their most valiant

generals and intrepid soldiers. CATO De Re Rustica, cap. 1. The

property which is acquired by these means is most innocent, most

solid, and exposes its possessor less to envy than property

acquired in any other way. See CICERO De Officiis, lib. 1. In

Britain the merchant is all in all; and yet the waves of the sea

are not more uncertain, nor more tumultuous, than the property

acquired in this way, or than the agitated life of the speculative


But let us look more particularly into this very instructive


I. The owner is described. 1. He was ish atsel, the

loitering, sluggish, slothful man. 2. He was adam

chasar leb, a man that wanted heart; destitute of courage,

alacrity, and decision of mind.

II. His circumstances. This man had, 1st, sadeh, a sowed

field, arable ground. This was the character of his estate. It was

meadow and corn land. 2. He had kerem, a vineyard,

what we would call perhaps garden and orchard, where he might

employ his skill to great advantage in raising various kinds of

fruits and culinary herbs for the support of his family.

III. The state of this heritage: 1. "It was grown over with

thorns." It had been long neglected, so that even brambles were

permitted to grow in the fields: 2. "Nettles had covered the face

thereof." It was not weeded, and all kinds of rubbish had been

suffered to multiply: 3. "The stone wall was broken down." This

belonged to the vineyard: it was neither pruned nor digged; and

the fence, for want of timely repairs, had all fallen into ruins,

Pr 24:31.

IV. The effect all this had on the attentive observer. 1. I saw

it, echezeh anochi, I fixed my attention on it. I found

it was no mere report. It is a fact. I myself was an eyewitness of

it. 2. I considered it well, ashith libbi, I put my

heart on it. All my feelings were interested. 3. I looked upon it,

raithi, I took an intellectual view of it. And 4. Thus I

received instruction, lakachti musar, I received a

very important lesson from it: but the owner paid no attention to

it. He alone was uninstructed; for he "slumbered, slept, and kept

his hands in his bosom." Pr 24:33. "Hugged himself in his sloth

and carelessness."

V. The consequences of this conduct. 1. Poverty described as

coming like a traveller, making sure steps every hour coming

nearer and nearer to the door. 2. Want, machsor, total

destitution; want of all the necessaries, conveniences, and

comforts of life; and this is described as coming like an armed

man keish magen, as a man with a shield, who comes to

destroy this unprofitable servant: or it may refer to a man coming

with what we call an execution into the house, armed with the law,

to take even his bed from the slumberer.

From this literal solution any minister of God may make a

profitable discourse.

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