Proverbs 25


A new series of Solomon's proverbs. God's glory in mysteries.

Observations concerning kings. Avoid contentions. Opportune

speech. The faithful ambassador. Delicacies to be sparingly

used. Avoid familiarity. Amusements not grateful to a

distressed mind. Do good to your enemies. The misery of

dwelling with a scold. The necessity of moderation and



Verse 1. These are also proverbs of Solomon] In my old MS.

Bible, this verse concludes the preceding chapter. It seems that

the remaining part of this book contains proverbs which had been

collected by the order of King Hezekiah, and were added to the

preceding book as a sort of supplement, having been collected from

traditionary sayings of Solomon. And as the men of Hezekiah may

mean Isaiah, Shebna, and other inspired men, who lived in that

time, we may consider them as of equal authority with the rest,

else such men could not have united them to the sacred book. The

chronological notes in the margin of this and the five following

chapters denote the time when the proverbs contained in them were

collected together in the reign of Hezekiah, about two hundred and

seventy years after the death of Solomon.

Verse 2. It is the glory of God to conceal a thing] This has

been understood as referring to the revelation of God's will in

his word, where there are many things concealed in parables,

allegories, metaphors, similitudes, &c. And it is becoming the

majesty of God so to publish his will, that it must be seriously

studied to be understood, in order that the truth may be more

prized when it is discovered. And if it be God's glory thus

partially to conceal his purposes, it is the glory of a king to

search and examine this word, that he may understand how by Him

kings reign and princes decree judgment. Prophecies are partially

concealed; and we cannot fully know their meaning till their

accomplishment; and then the glory of God's wisdom and providence

will be more particularly evident, when we see the event

correspond so particularly and exactly with the prediction. I know

not, however, that there are not matters in the Book of God that

will not be fully opened till mortality is swallowed up of life.

For here we see through a glass darkly; but there, face to face:

here we know in part; but there we shall know as we also are


On this subject I cannot withhold an extract of a letter sent to

myself, by a royal and learned personage.*

* His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex.

"As far as I have presumed to dive into and occupy myself with

the sacred volumes, I feel satisfied of their Divine origin and

truth. And I am satisfied, likewise, that they contain more matter

than any one, and myself in particular, can ever aspire fully to

understand. This belief, however, ought in nowise to slacken our

diligence, or damp our ardour, in attempting a constant pursuit

after the attainment of knowledge and truth; as we may flatter

ourselves, although unable to reach the gate, we are still

approaching nearer to its portals, which of itself is a great

blessing." This sentiment will be approved by every pious and

enlightened mind.

Verse 3. The heaven for height] The simple meaning of this is,

the reasons of state, in reference to many acts of the executive

government, can no more be fathomed by the common people, than the

height of the heavens and the depth of the earth.

Verse 4. Take away the dross from the silver] You cannot have a

pure silver vessel till you have purified the silver; and no

nation can have a king a public blessing till the wicked-all bad

counsellors, wicked and interested ministers, and sycophants-are

banished from the court and cabinet. When the wise and good only

are the king's ministers and advisers, then the throne will be

established in righteousness, and his administration be a

universal blessing.

Verse 7. Come up hither] Our Lord refers to this, see Lu 14:8,

and the notes there. Be humble; affect not high things; let those

who are desperate climb dangerous precipices; keep thyself quiet,

and thou shalt live at ease, and in peace. Hear the speech of a

wise heathen on this subject:-

Quid fuit, ut tutas agitaret Daedalus alas;

Icarus immensas nomine signet aquas?

Nempe quod hic alte, dimissus ille volabat.

Nam pennas ambo nonne habuere suas?

Crede mihi; bene qui latuit, bene vixit; et infra

Fortunam debet quisque manere suam.

Vive sine invidia; mollesque inglorius annos

Exige: amicitias et tibi junge pares.

OVID, Trist. lib. iii., El. 4, ver. 21.

"Why was it that Daedalus winged his way safely, while Icarus his

son fell, and gave name to the Icarian sea? Was it not because the

son flew aloft, and the father skimmed the ground? For both were

furnished with the same kind of wings. Take my word for it, that

he who lives privately lives safely; and every one should live

within his own income. Envy no man; pray for a quiet life, though

it should not be dignified. Seek a friend, and associate with thy


Verse 8. Go not forth hastily to strive] lerib, to enter

into a lawsuit. Keep from this pit of the bottomless deep, unless

urged by the direst necessity.

Verse 9. Debate thy cause with thy neighbour] Take the advice of

friends. Let both sides attend to their counsels; but do not tell

the secret of thy business to any. After squandering your money

away upon lawyers, both they and the judge will at last leave it

to be settled by twelve of your fellow citizens! O the folly of

going to law! O the blindness of men, and the rapacity of

unprincipled lawyers!

On this subject I cannot but give the following extract from Sir

John Hawkins's Life of Dr. Johnson, which he quotes from Mr.

Selwin, of London: "A man who deliberates about going to law

should have, 1. A good cause; 2. A good purse; 3. A good skilful

attorney; 4. Good evidence; 5. Good able counsel; 6. A good

upright judge; 7. A good intelligent jury; and with all these on

his side, if he have not, 8. Good luck, it is odds but he

miscarries in his suit." O the glorious uncertainty of the law!

Verse 11. A word fitly spoken] al ophannaiv, upon its

wheels. An observation, caution, reproof, or advice, that comes in

naturally, runs smoothly along, is not forced nor dragged in,

that appears to be without design, to rise out of the

conversation, and though particularly relative to one point, will

appear to the company to suit all.

Is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.] Is like the

refreshing orange or beautiful citron, served up in open work or

filigree baskets, made of silver. The Asiatics excel in filigree

silver work. I have seen much of it, and it is exquisitely

beautiful. The silver wire by which it is done they form into the

appearance of numerous flowers; and though these wires are

soldered everywhere at their junctions with each other, yet this

is done with such delicacy and skill as to be scarcely

perceptible. I have seen animals formed on this filigree work,

with all their limbs, and every joint in its natural play.

Fruit-baskets are made also in this way, and are exquisitely

fine. The wise man seems to have this kind of work particularly in

view; and the contrast of the golden yellow fruit in the

exquisitely wrought silver basket, which may be all termed picture

work, has a fine and pleasing effect upon the eye, as the

contained fruit has upon the palate at an entertainment in a

sultry climate. So the word spoken judiciously and opportunely is

as much in its place, as the golden apples in the silver baskets.

Verse 12. As an ear-ring of gold] I believe nezem to mean

the nose-ring with its pendants; the left nostril is pierced, and

a ring put through it, as in the ear. This is very common in

almost every part of the East, among women of condition. This is a

farther illustration of the above metaphor.

Verse 13. As the cold of snow] That snow was frequent in Judea,

is well known; and that in the East they have snow-houses-places

dug under ground, where they lay up snow for summer use-is also a

fact. By means of the mass of snow deposited in them the icy

temperature is kept up, so that the snow is easily preserved. The

common method of cooling their wine, which is as easy as it is

effectual, is by dipping a cloth in water, wrapping it round the

bottle, and then hanging the bottle in the heat of the sun. The

strong evaporation carries off the caloric from the wine, and the

repetition of the wet cloth in the same exposure, makes the wine

almost as cold as ice.

How agreeable this must be in a burning climate, may be easily

conceived. Perhaps it is this to which the wise man refers; for it

is a fact that they could have no snow in harvest, unless such as

had been preserved as mentioned above; but this could be only in a

few places, and within the reach of a very few persons. But

cooling their liquors by the simple mode of evaporation already

explained, was within the reach even of the labourers in the

harvest field. I think the text favours this supposition; for

ketsinnerth sheleg, need not be referred to snow itself

procuring cold, but to a coldness like that of snow, procured by

evaporation. If this interpretation be allowed, all difficulty

will be removed.

Verse 14. A false gift] mattath shaker, a lying gift,

one promised, but never bestowed. "Whoso maketh greate boastes,

and giveth nothing;" COVERDALE. SO the VULGATE: "Vir gloriosus, et

promissa non complens;" "A bragging man, who does not fulfil his

promises," is like clouds which appear to be laden with vapour,

and like the wind which, though it blow from a rainy quarter,

brings no moistness with it. So the vain boaster; he is big with

promise, but performs nothing.

Verse 15. A soft tongue breaketh the bone.] This is similar to

another proverb on the same subject: "A soft answer turneth away

wrath." An angry word does nothing but mischief.

Verse 16. Hast thou found honey?] Make a moderate use of all thy

enjoyments. "Let thy moderation be known unto all, and appear in

all things."

Verse 17. Withdraw thy foot] Another proverb will illustrate

this: "Too much familiarity breeds contempt."

Verse 20. As vinegar upon nitre] The original word nather

is what is known among chemists as the natron of the ancients and

of the Scriptures, and carbonate of soda. It is found native in

Syria and India, and occurs as an efflorescence on the soil. In

Tripoli it is found in crystalline incrustations of from one

third to half an inch thick. It is found also in solution in the

water of some lakes in Egypt and Hungary. The borders of these

lakes are covered with crystalline masses, of a grayish white or

light brown colour; and in some specimens the natron is nearly

pure carbonate of soda, and the carbonate is easily discovered

by effervescing with an acid. It appears to have its Hebrew name

from nathar, to dissolve or loosen: because a solution

of it in water is abstersive, taking out spots, &c. It is used in

the East for the purposes of washing. If vinegar be poured on it,

Dr. Shaw says a strong fermentation immediately takes place, which

illustrates what Solomon says here: "The singing of songs to a

heavy heart is like vinegar upon natron:" that is, "there is no

affinity between them; and opposition, colluctation, and strife,

are occasioned by any attempt to unite them."

And poureth vyneger upon chalke.-COVERDALE. This also will

occasion an effervescence. See Jer 2:22.

Verse 21. If thine enemy be hungry] See this and the next verse

explained, Ro 12:20.

Verse 22. Thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head] Not to

consume, but to melt him into kindness; a metaphor taken from

smelting metallic ores:-

So artists melt the sullen ore of lead,

By heaping coals of fire upon its head:

In the kind warmth the metal learns to glow,

And pure from dross the silver runs below.


Verse 23. The north wind driveth away rain] The margin has, "The

north wind bringeth forth rain." It is said that the "north wind

brings forth rain at Jerusalem, because it brings with it the

vapours arising from the sea that lies north of it." The marginal

is the true reading; and is supported by the Chaldee, Syriac, and

Septuagint; but the Arabic reads south wind.

A backbiting tongue] A hidden tongue.

Verse 24. It is better to dwell in a corner]

See Clarke on Pr 21:9.

Verse 27. It is not good to eat much honey] Coverdale translates

the whole passage thus: "Like as it is not good to eat to muche

hony; even so, he that wyll search out hye thinges, it shal be to

hevy for him." As he that etith myche honye, and it is not to him

goode; so, that is a sercher of mageste, schal ben oppressid of

glorie-Old MS. Bible. He that searches too much into mysteries, is

likely to be confounded by them. I really think this is the

meaning of the place; and shall not puzzle either myself or my

reader with the discordant explanations which have been brought

forward with the hope of illustrating this passage.

Copyright information for Clarke