1-2 The Fool Who Separates Himself 3 The Wicked Man and What Comes with Him 4 Deep Waters and a Bubbling Brook 5 No Respecter of Persons in a Court Case 6-8 The Words of a Fool and a Slanderer 9 Slackness Has a Destroying Effect 10-12 The True Safety and the False Safety 13 Listen Before You Give an Answer 14 The Spirit of a Man or a Broken Spirit 15 To Acquire and Seek Knowledge 16 What a Gift Can Do 17-19 A Case, Strife and Contentions 20-21 The Fruit of Our Words 22 A Wife as a Proof of God’s Favor 23 Supplications and Rough Answers 24 The Difference between Friends and a Friend
The Fool Who Separates Himself

1He who separates himself seeks [his own] desire,
He quarrels against all sound wisdom.
2A fool does not delight in understanding,
But only in revealing his own mind.

“He who separates himself” (verse 11He who separates himself seeks [his own] desire,
He quarrels against all sound wisdom.
) has become an enemy of every form of friendship because of his selfishness and self-interest. Everyone he should have taken into account, hinders him in satisfying “[his own] desires”. The only thing he pays attention to is what gives pleasure to himself. Therefore he doesn’t want to know of any form of wisdom, for that confronts him with a higher purpose of life.

When something is said to him about it, whether by God from His Word when that is presented to him, or by a man, when he wants to point out something to him, he “quarrels” against it. He is like the apostate Jews of whom it is written that they do not please God and are against all people (1Thes 2:1515who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men,). His whole attitude shows that he belongs to those who are “worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit” (Jude 1:1919These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.).

It should be noted that there is a separation which God asks from us in His Word. That concerns a separation from sin and people who are living in sin and from those who accept sin in others and do not distance themselves from them (2Tim 2:19-2119Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.”20Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.21Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these [things], he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.; 2Cor 6:14-1714Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?15Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?16Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.17“Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you.; Heb 13:1313So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.; 2Jn 1:7-117For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ [as] coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.8Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.9Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.10If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into [your] house, and do not give him a greeting;11for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.).

Verse 22A fool does not delight in understanding,
But only in revealing his own mind.
is connected to verse 11He who separates himself seeks [his own] desire,
He quarrels against all sound wisdom.
. He who quarrels against all wisdom shows that he is “a fool”, somebody who naturally “does not delight in understanding”. What he delights in is passing his opinion and in that way “revealing his own heart”. He hates understanding, but delights in telling his own foolish understanding. By what he says he reveals what is hidden in his heart. Such a person asks questions to show how smart he is (which he in any case thinks of himself) instead of desiring to be taught. He has a preformed, incorrigible opinion and wants it to be heard.

We find this fool in the days of the Lord Jesus in the religious leaders. They cannot be happy from the understanding that Christ wants to give and even quarrel against it. They only want to air their own understanding and be admired for it.

The Wicked Man and What Comes with Him

3When a wicked man comes, contempt also comes,
And with dishonor [comes] scorn.

“When a wicked man comes”, wherever that may be, “contempt”, “dishonor” and “scorn” will follow him as his sworn comrades in his wake. Contempt comes with him because the wicked man will always consider the righteous with contempt, in order to overwhelm him with dishonor and scorn. He will always find a cause for that with the righteous, whether in his circumstances or in his way of life.

This way of acting belongs to the wicked man, it is his nature. To him God has no meaning or any value at all. The warning is to be watchful for the wicked man, for in his company are contempt, dishonor and scorn which he pours out on others in his speech and behavior.

Deep Waters and a Bubbling Brook

4The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters;
The fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.

The “man” here is a wise man. His “mouth” is compared with a place out of which water is bubbling and his “words” are compared with that water. What he says are simple words but they have a deep meaning. The words are not only profound, but they also never run out and always contain wisdom because they come from “the fountain of wisdom”. The words of a man which come from the fountain of God’s thoughts, are both profound and bubbling. It indicates the depth and the width of wisdom.

Wisdom is deep (Job 28:1-281“Surely there is a mine for silver
And a place where they refine gold.
2“Iron is taken from the dust,
And copper is smelted from rock.
3“[Man] puts an end to darkness,
And to the farthest limit he searches out
The rock in gloom and deep shadow.
4“He sinks a shaft far from habitation,
Forgotten by the foot;
They hang and swing to and fro far from men.
5“The earth, from it comes food,
And underneath it is turned up as fire.
6“Its rocks are the source of sapphires,
And its dust [contains] gold.
7“The path no bird of prey knows,
Nor has the falcon’s eye caught sight of it.
8“The proud beasts have not trodden it,
Nor has the [fierce] lion passed over it.
9“He puts his hand on the flint;
He overturns the mountains at the base.
10“He hews out channels through the rocks,
And his eye sees anything precious.
11“He dams up the streams from flowing,
And what is hidden he brings out to the light.
12“But where can wisdom be found?
And where is the place of understanding?
13“Man does not know its value,
Nor is it found in the land of the living.
14“The deep says, ‘It is not in me’;
And the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’
15“Pure gold cannot be given in exchange for it,
Nor can silver be weighed as its price.
16“It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir,
In precious onyx, or sapphire.
17“Gold or glass cannot equal it,
Nor can it be exchanged for articles of fine gold.
18“Coral and crystal are not to be mentioned;
And the acquisition of wisdom is above [that of] pearls.
19“The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it,
Nor can it be valued in pure gold.
20“Where then does wisdom come from?
And where is the place of understanding?
21“Thus it is hidden from the eyes of all living
And concealed from the birds of the sky.
22“Abaddon and Death say,
‘With our ears we have heard a report of it.’
23“God understands its way,
And He knows its place.
24“For He looks to the ends of the earth
And sees everything under the heavens.
25“When He imparted weight to the wind
And meted out the waters by measure,
26When He set a limit for the rain
And a course for the thunderbolt,
27Then He saw it and declared it;
He established it and also searched it out.
28“And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;
And to depart from evil is understanding.’”
), it is what is in God (Rom 11:3333Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!). It is a great grace that God has shared His thoughts of wisdom with us. He did that in His Word and through His Spirit. Through His Spirit we can now know the depths of God (1Cor 2:9-109but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And [which] have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”10For to us God revealed [them] through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.). Wisdom is not an ocean, but a well from which a brook comes forth that bubbles. That fountain is the Lord Jesus.

Moses speaks about “deep waters” (Deu 8:77For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills;) as one of the blessings of the promised land. In the spiritual application we could think of the blessing of eternal life. The Lord Jesus speaks about it when He says to the Samaritan woman: “But the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (Jn 4:14b14but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”).

No Respecter of Persons in a Court Case

5To show partiality to the wicked is not good,
[Nor] to thrust aside the righteous in judgment.

In a world of which satan is god and chief, it happens that a wicked man is shown partiality and that the right of the righteous is thrust aside in judgment. Partiality can play a role when the wicked man is a rich person, or a family member, or someone who has influence because he is respected. The righteous may have pointed out the evil that someone has done, like Elijah did and John the baptist. God hates such a course of matters. He wants that justice is done rightfully (2Chr 19:77Now then let the fear of the LORD be upon you; be very careful what you do, for the LORD our God will have no part in unrighteousness or partiality or the taking of a bribe.”; Mal 2:99“So I also have made you despised and abased before all the people, just as you are not keeping My ways but are showing partiality in the instruction.). It is reprehensible to thrust aside the righteous, meaning to take his right away from him.

It is not only a judicial error, an unjustified judgment, that is expressed in the acquittal of a wicked man who should have been convicted. It is not so much about the outcome, but about the motive. That motive is partiality (cf. 1Tim 5:2121I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of [His] chosen angels, to maintain these [principles] without bias, doing nothing in a [spirit of] partiality.). It is a verdict on behalf of discrimination. It does not only apply to a court case, but to all cases. James applies it to the interrelationships of the members of God (Jam 2:1-91My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with [an attitude of] personal favoritism.2For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes,3and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,”4have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?5Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world [to be] rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?6But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?7Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?8If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.9But if you show partiality, you are committing sin [and] are convicted by the law as transgressors.). The Lord Jesus warns us: “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (Jn 7:2424Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”).

The Words of a Fool and a Slanderer

6A fool’s lips bring strife,
And his mouth calls for blows.
7A fool’s mouth is his ruin,
And his lips are the snare of his soul.
8The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels,
And they go down into the innermost parts of the body.

Foolish people bring themselves into problems by what they say (verse 66A fool’s lips bring strife,
And his mouth calls for blows.
). What “a fool” cries out, brings “strife”. His speech is inflammatory or hurtful. Therefore his mouth calls “for blows” with what he says. What he says is not innocent. Not only wrong deeds are to punished, also wrong words. Wrong deeds are harmful to someone and they do wrong to him. Wrong words are also harmful to another and do him wrong.

Therefore he deserves to be punished. That punishment can for instance be executed by his parents, or by his employer, or by a judge. It is also possible for him to be punished by God, for with what he says, he also asks for God’s judgment over himself.

Verse 77A fool’s mouth is his ruin,
And his lips are the snare of his soul.
is the continuation of verse 66A fool’s lips bring strife,
And his mouth calls for blows.
and goes a step further. Not only blows are attached to what he says, but what he says will result in his own “ruin” (Ecc 10:1212Words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious, while the lips of a fool consume him;). The words that he speaks out with his lips are “the snare of his soul”, they are against him. He gets caught up in his words, he becomes captivated in them and that will lead him to death. Everything a fool says, also what he says to defend himself, forms the cause of his ruin. Everything he says will be evidence to God to judge him according to the righteousness of his judgment.

In verse 88The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels,
And they go down into the innermost parts of the body.
it is not so much about the lips and the mouth of the fool, but about those who listen to him. The fool is also the slanderer, one who spreads gossip. People enjoy listening to gossip. Gossip is “like dainty morsels”, which is food that is swallowed up with greed. When such ‘tasty’ pieces of food glide into the belly, they go down into the “innermost parts of the body”, which causes the desire for more to be stimulated.

The innermost part functions as a storeroom where things are stored that were said, in order to repeat them later. We saw earlier that the listener helps the gossiper by listening to his gossip. His words are blindly sucked in and they go down into the innermost parts, where they do their sickening work and poison soul and spirit until death follows. The gossiper speaks with words that are “smoother than butter” and “softer than oil”, but which are “drawn swords” (Psa 55:2121His speech was smoother than butter,
But his heart was war;
His words were softer than oil,
Yet they were drawn swords.
), and therefore have a lethal effect. They kill all remainders of healthy spiritual life that might still have been present.

Slackness Has a Destroying Effect

9He also who is slack in his work
Is brother to him who destroys.

Earlier proverbs on slackness are about spoiling one’s own activities, which leads the slacker to poverty. Here it is about someone who works for another person, but because of his slackness, doesn’t do his work with devotion. “Who is slack in his work”, is someone with slack hands. He is inactive. He is not better than one who is actively seeking to destroy one’s work. They are both related to “him who destroys”; they are so to speak from the same ‘blood group’ as the devil. In the one case the work is not finished, in the other case it is destroyed when it is finished.

This we can apply to the work for the Lord. The slack bondservant is as harmful to God’s kingdom as the squandering bondservant (Mt 25:2525And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’; Lk 16:11Now He was also saying to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and this [manager] was reported to him as squandering his possessions.). If we lack to serve the Lord faithfully, we are counterproductive. What someone does not do, can be just as harmful as what someone does. The Lord Jesus says: “He who does not gather with Me scatters” (Mt 12:3030He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.).

The True Safety and the False Safety

10The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
The righteous runs into it and is safe.
11A rich man’s wealth is his strong city,
And like a high wall in his own imagination.
12Before destruction the heart of man is haughty,
But humility [goes] before honor.

That “the name of the LORD is a strong tower” means that God is fully able to protect those who trust in Him (verse 1010The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
The righteous runs into it and is safe.
; cf. Psa 71:33Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come;
You have given commandment to save me,
For You are my rock and my fortress.
). That’s what the righteous needs, because he lives in a world where wicked people are dominating. The righteous believes that his safety is the Name of the LORD only and therefore “runs into it”.

The metaphor refers to one of the features of God, which is His power to protect. The word ‘runs’ describes the undivided confidence in that protection. We take refuge in that Name when we are in trouble or have insecurity, and then go to Him in prayer (Isa 50:1010Who is among you that fears the LORD,
That obeys the voice of His servant,
That walks in darkness and has no light?
Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.
). We do that because we know that He will receive us and offer the protection He promises to give to those who trust in Him.

“Is safe” is a military term and emphasizes the effect to those who take refuge in that Name (cf. Psa 20:11For the choir director. A Psalm of David.
May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble!
May the name of the God of Jacob set you [securely] on high!
). Safe also means to be in a high fortress. The righteous is behind thick walls, through which the weapons of the enemy cannot strike him. He is also on a high wall and therefore exalted above all attacks, through which the weapons of the enemy cannot reach him. The enemy cannot go through the wall and neither can he climb it.

Rich people often assume that their property is their “strong city”, which offers them their safety (verse 1111A rich man’s wealth is his strong city,
And like a high wall in his own imagination.
; cf. Job 31:2424“If I have put my confidence [in] gold,
And called fine gold my trust,
). In that way they build their own “high wall” of safety. But their confidence in it is an illusion. This false safety is clearly against the real safety that God’s Name offers (verse 1010The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
The righteous runs into it and is safe.
). What the rich expects from his wealth, is what the righteous expects from his God. The first metaphor, the strong city, suggests protection against all attacks from outside; the second metaphor, the high wall, expresses their thoughts about being unbeatable.

Each protection that wealth can offer is extremely limited, regarding both the power and its durability. Money can never guarantee absolute safety, in contrast to the Name of God, which can (1Tim 6:1717Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.). He who thinks that money can offer absolute safety really is a dreamer, someone who lives outside the reality of life.

The rich man of verse 1111A rich man’s wealth is his strong city,
And like a high wall in his own imagination.
is the proud man of verse 1212Before destruction the heart of man is haughty,
But humility [goes] before honor.
, the man whose “heart” is haughty. His way leads to “destruction”. The way that leads to “honor”, is the way of “humility”.

The haughty finds safety in himself. He boasts in his own possibilities to protect himself. It is false security not to be in need of anyone’s help and to defend and take care of himself. But one thing is for sure and that is that he will face destruction. There is no protection for him.

The opposite is “humility”, one’s awareness of not being able to survive by his own power, but to be dependent on God. The humble takes refuge in the Name of God and will be honored by Him for that. The humility and glorification of the Lord Jesus is the clear example of this truth (Isa 52:13-53:1213Behold, My servant will prosper,
He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted.
14Just as many were astonished at you, [My people],
So His appearance was marred more than any man
And His form more than the sons of men.
15Thus He will sprinkle many nations,
Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him;
For what had not been told them they will see,
And what they had not heard they will understand.
; Phil 2:1-101Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,2make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.3Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;4do not [merely] look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.5Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,6who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, [and] being made in the likeness of men.8Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.9For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,10so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,). Therein He is an example for everyone who follows Him in that way (Mt 23:12b12Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.).

Listen Before You Give an Answer

13He who gives an answer before he hears,
It is folly and shame to him.

The truth of this verse is important for everything that is said to us in a conversation or discussion. We first have to hear the whole story; let the other person finish speaking and only then respond. It leads to “folly and shame” when we give an answer, while we have heard only a part of the story and make up the rest of it. We have to be “quick to hear and slow to speak” (Jam 1:1919[This] you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak [and] slow to anger;). That goes above all in our relationship to God and hearing His Word.

Bad listening means that we do not respect the person who says something. That lack of respect of a person comes forth from being engaged with our own interest. Our own thoughts are considered much higher than what the other person says. Our own opinion is the only thing that counts. It is “folly and shame” to him who speaks with another like that.

The Spirit of a Man or a Broken Spirit

14The spirit of a man can endure his sickness,
But [as for] a broken spirit who can bear it?

He who has spirit, who is healthy in his thinking, and can focus his thoughts on God, has peace in his heart in his sickness. You may be disabled physically, but be able to bear it well when you have a “spirit” that can find rest in the way that God goes. But when someone has “a broken spirit” the burden of that way is difficult to bear. Thereby, no one can sense precisely what is in the spirit of such a person.

A depression is a heavy test. With a physical illness you can rely on the desire to live, but in a depression the desire to live sometimes has disappeared. There are a few things in human experience that are hard to deal with, such as depression. We see that in the suffering which happened to Job. In connection to the previous verse, we can say that here we first and above all have to learn to listen, before we even start to express an answer to the question: “Who can bear it?”

To Acquire and Seek Knowledge

15The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge,
And the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.

The “knowledge” that “the mind of the prudent acquires”, is knowledge about God and His judgment over all things. “The mind” refers to the mindset, the desire. It is also the storage-room of the acquired knowledge. That is foremost. “The ear” is the means by which the knowledge comes into the mind. “The ear of the wise seeks knowledge”, which refers to effort, the seeking of knowledge with eagerness. Knowledge must be sought, it doesn’t come naturally.

“The ear of the wise” listens to teaching and in that way takes in knowledge. The mind of the prudent distinguishes what the ear should hear to acquire knowledge. It is instructive to see that the wise in Proverbs seeks knowledge continuously. He who is wise, will see himself as a pupil and also act like that. Those who know much are most aware of their ignorance. The ear seeks knowledge, the mind stores up knowledge.

Prudent is he who can distinguish good from evil. Wise is he who has learnt to fear God. The one will lead to the other. The desire to really know the difference between good and evil will lead us to God and will work a holy respect for Him.

What a Gift Can Do

16A man’s gift makes room for him
And brings him before great men.

The gift (mathan) about which is spoken here is not the same as a bribe (shokhad). The word that is used here, mathan, is more general than the word shokhad (Pro 17:8,238A bribe is a charm in the sight of its owner;
Wherever he turns, he prospers.23A wicked man receives a bribe from the bosom
To pervert the ways of justice.
), which has a more negative meaning. It is generally true that a gift opens a way to and gives entrance to “great men”. At the same time we should not close our eyes to the danger that is hidden in the offering of a gift, that a gift still has the effect of a bribe. Both the giver and recipient must be careful about the danger.

The proverb itself simply says that a gift can appease a person (Gen 32:2020and you shall say, ‘Behold, your servant Jacob also is behind us.’” For he said, “I will appease him with the present that goes before me. Then afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me.”; 43:1111Then their father Israel said to them, “If [it must be] so, then do this: take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man as a present, a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds.; 1Sam 25:2727Now let this gift which your maidservant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who accompany my lord.). The gift is not given to flatter someone, but it is used as an expression of respect toward him because of the position he has. It is about a noble person. He who approaches that person in such a way, has a better chance to come into contact with him, for whatever purpose, than someone who impertinently asks him to talk with him.

A Case, Strife and Contentions

17The first to plead his case [seems] right,
[Until] another comes and examines him.
18The [cast] lot puts an end to strife
And decides between the mighty ones.
19A brother offended [is harder to be won] than a strong city,
And contentions are like the bars of a citadel.

The first line of the verse affirms the general experience that he who is as the first one allowed to explain his case in court, seems to be right (verse 1717The first to plead his case [seems] right,
[Until] another comes and examines him.
). However, before we declare him “right”, his fellow man must be heard concerning his view on the dispute. This proverb reminds us of the fact that there are two parties in a dispute – about for example a business matter, a domestic matter or a religious matter – and that both parties are to be heard in a dispute.

This is another warning against prejudice (verse 1313He who gives an answer before he hears,
It is folly and shame to him.
). First of all, all facts should be clear. We will only find that out when we hear both sides. An adversarial process must take place. Only when both parties have been heard, there can be a right judgment (Deu 1:1616“Then I charged your judges at that time, saying, ‘Hear [the cases] between your fellow countrymen, and judge righteously between a man and his fellow countryman, or the alien who is with him.). Each person should express the case from his point of view.

The first may tell his story very convincingly, but when the second person tells his side of the story, it may seem that the case is more nuanced than we thought after we heard the first speaker. That must be the attitude in all cases where there is a difference of opinion. That can be for example in a family among the children, the spouses and also the brothers and sisters of a local church.

Verse 1818The [cast] lot puts an end to strife
And decides between the mighty ones.
could regard a case in which both parties of verse 1717The first to plead his case [seems] right,
[Until] another comes and examines him.
have been speaking, but the outcome gave no clarity about the question of who is right. It is a dispute between “great men”, men who take a leading position. They can defend their case strongly. Then the only thing that’s left is the lot to get some sense of a solution out of the dispute, by judging one party to be in the right.

When both parties acknowledge that it is God Who brings an end to the dispute by casting the lot (Pro 16:3333The lot is cast into the lap,
But its every decision is from the LORD.
) and accept the outcome, the dispute is stopped. That is better than when it turns out to be a power measurement, which always causes others to become victims. Today we have God’s Word and God’s Spirit and spiritually minded believers who can make a decision in a conflict (1Cor 6:1-81Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints?2Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent [to constitute] the smallest law courts?3Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?4So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church?5I say [this] to your shame. [Is it so, that] there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren,6but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?7Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?8On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. [You do] this even to [your] brethren.).

However, there are also cases where even the lot gets no chance to bring a solution. That is the case when a brother “has been offended” (verse 1919A brother offended [is harder to be won] than a strong city,
And contentions are like the bars of a citadel.
). That injustice has been done to the brother during the conflict. Then he was treated in such a hurtful way that he withdrew and distances himself from everyone and closed himself for all contact.

He “is harder to be won than a strong city”, which means that a strong city is easier to take over than being able to approach him, because of the injustice that has been done to him. The city, in which he has withdrawn himself, is a citadel. The conflicts on which the injustice is based “are like the bars of a citadel”. That means that he has barred the access to his heart.

This proverb is an observation without comment. To us it is an exhortation not to do any injustice to a brother in such a way, that he ends up with such a mindset. In case it does happen that a brother or a sister has such a mindset, then we should not allow us to just observe or make such a conclusion. Love will make every effort to win the offended brother and to make him restore his relationship with the Lord and with his fellow brothers and sisters.

The Fruit of Our Words

20With the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach will be satisfied;
He will be satisfied [with] the product of his lips.
21Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruit.

The good, edifying words that we speak with our “mouth” and our “lips” satisfy inwardly (“his stomach”) (verse 2020With the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach will be satisfied;
He will be satisfied [with] the product of his lips.
). They are like the seed of a good fruit which delivers a satisfying product or harvest. This proverb is a stimulus to give just as much care to the words that we speak as the fruit of the trees from which we eat. When we eat healthy fruits, we will stay healthy; when we eat unhealthy fruits, we will become ill. When our words are careful, God fearing and good, “with grace … seasoned with salt” (Col 4:66Let your speech always be with grace, [as though] seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.), to serve others with, we will be satisfied by it. It gives satisfaction and a good conscience.
“His stomach” is also to be applied to the conscience. If we want to satisfy our stomach, meaning if we want to keep up a good conscience, we should be careful about what we say. Beside the direct satisfaction, there is also a later product or harvest. Also when we see the “product” of our wise, prudent, God fearing words, which means the effect that they have, it gives a deep satisfaction. It may be words that we speak when we give advice, but also answers to questions that are asked of us.

Verse 2121Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruit.
makes clear once more what the effect of our words can be. What kind of words do we sow: to death or to life? That question is most important to “those who love it”, which means to those who love “the tongue”. It is about a wrong love, namely about someone who enjoys talking. He will eat the fruit of what he says. What he says will return to him. The fool sows words that deliver death and destruction; the wise sows words that result in life. False teachers sow words with a seed of death and destruction; the ambassadors of Christ proclaim life.

A Wife as a Proof of God’s Favor

22He who finds a wife finds a good thing
And obtains favor from the LORD.

He who looks for a wife who is fitting to him, will ask God for it. Only He knows which wife is fitting to which man. If he finds her by His guidance, he has “found a good thing”, which means something that delivers him profit, by which his life becomes richer. The words ‘a good thing’ describe that it is something that pleases God, which is favorable for life and gives abundant joy.

He who finds this good thing in the wife that he finds, obtains “favor from the LORD”. It will fill him with gratitude that God is so kind to him. God has said: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen 2:1818Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”). He provided in that by giving this good thing.

Supplications and Rough Answers

23The poor man utters supplications,
But the rich man answers roughly.

The social circumstances wherein one finds himself and the position he has therein, have an impact on his character. Poverty leads to a humble spirit which causes “the poor man” to utter supplications for a favor. He has no other choice; he has to “utter supplications” to receive something. “The rich man” answers “roughly” to that, with harsh accusations and rejection. He has never been in such a position of poverty and has no imagination of the feelings of a poor man.

The poor man begs, the rich man snaps at him. It often goes like that. The rich man does not understand the poor at all. Wealth often leads to an insensitivity for the need of a poor man, whom the rich man wants to get rid of when he shows him the need he has (cf. 1Sam 25:1717Now therefore, know and consider what you should do, for evil is plotted against our master and against all his household; and he is such a worthless man that no one can speak to him.”; Jam 2:66But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?; Mt 18:23-3523“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.24When he had begun to settle [them], one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him.25But since he did not have [the means] to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made.26So the slave fell [to the ground] and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’27And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.28But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and [began] to choke [him], saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’29So his fellow slave fell [to the ground] and [began] to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’30But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed.31So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened.32Then summoning him, his lord *said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.33Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’34And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.35My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”).

The Lord Jesus gives us the good example. He listens to the supplications of the poor man and doesn’t answer roughly, but with love and compassion.

The Difference between Friends and a Friend

24A man of [too many] friends [comes] to ruin,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

It is better to have one good, faithful friend than numerous unfaithful friends. Beside the friends, it also says something about the man who has a lot of friends. He seems to be ‘everyone’s friend’. That is not a positive characteristic, but a negative one. Someone who can be everyone’s friend often has no own opinion. He lets himself be carried away by the wind in all directions, because he wants to be friends with everyone. There is a great chance that things will turn out bad for him. When things turn out to be bad, all those friends will forsake him. Those are ‘swallow (false) friends’, they come when you’re alright and go when things go bad in your life.

Therefore, we should choose our friends carefully and invest in them. It is not the quantity that counts, but the quality. A real friend is someone who is always there for you. That means more than your own brother, sometimes. David was treated with contempt by his brothers, but faithfully by his friend Jonathan, also when he was persecuted and had difficulties. A faithful friendship is more than affection; it is a commitment through thick and thin.

Read more