1 A Name and Favor Are Better Than Wealth 2 The LORD Is the Maker of All 3 To Escape from Evil or to Be Killed 4 The Reward of Humility 5 Thorns and Snares in the Way 6 Counsel for Training 7-9 To Borrow, to Sow Iniquity and to Be Generous 10 Drive out the Scoffer 11 Purity and Grace 12 The LORD Preserves and Overthrows 13 An Excuse of the Sluggard Not to Work 14 The Mouth Is a Deep Pit 15 The Rod Keeps Foolishness at a Distance 16 To Make More and Come to Poverty 17-21 Words of Truth Are Excellent Things 22-23 The LORD Will Punish Robbing and Crushing 24-25 Bad Company Corrupts Good Morals 26-27 Do Not Become a Guarantor for Debts 28 Do Not Move the Ancient Boundaries 29 He Who Is Skilled in His Work
A Name and Favor Are Better Than Wealth

1A [good] name is to be more desired than great wealth,
Favor is better than silver and gold.

“A [good] name” or reputation is to be more desired than “great wealth”. The real value of a person is not what he possesses, but what he is. One gets a good name by his kind dealings with others. That definitely can only be worked by the Spirit. Whoever has a good name, has received it because he seeks the wellbeing of the other, pays real attention and shows respect and compassion. With a good name, wealth does not matter. Wealth dissipates, a good name remains.

“Favor” is inseparably connected to a good name. He who has a good name, is favored by God and men. Due to his characteristics and selfless performance, people think highly of him. People appreciate his company, not because of his possessions, but because of who he is. This is more valuable than silver and gold.  Everyone with a good empathy will admit that.

A good name is not the same as being popular. One is popular, because he is loved by man without God. He may contribute a lot of money to ‘charities’, by giving it adequate publicity. Or he may be a comedian who makes others laugh and makes them to forget the miserable feelings that they may have, for a moment. Regarding such popularity, the Lord Jesus says: “Woe to you when all men speak well of you” (Lk 6:2626Woe [to you] when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.). With these people it is ultimately only about their own honor and not about the honor of God. He who seeks to please men – himself or others – is not a bondservant of Christ (Gal 1:1010For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.).

In our Western, modern, hedonistic, pleasure-seeking culture, character and reputation are not considered as meaningful. Only what someone achieves, is considered, not how he lives. One may live in the most abominable sins and still be called a hero and be worshiped as an idol. Real value, however, should be seen, not in what one achieves, but in what he or she really is. A good name is a treasure of which the value is not influenced by the delusion of the day or the stature of the material world for which the materialistic man bows down.

The Lord Jesus had no wealth when He was on earth, but He had a good Name. His “Name is like oils with a pleasing fragrance” (Song 1:33“Your oils have a pleasing fragrance,
Your name is [like] purified oil;
Therefore the maidens love you.
), which means that He spreads a beneficial aroma in everything that He does (Acts 10:3838[You know of] Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and [how] He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.).

The LORD Is the Maker of All

2The rich and the poor have a common bond,
The LORD is the maker of them all.

It is not about God making people rich or poor, but that He has made both men who are rich and those who are poor (Job 31:13,1513“If I have despised the claim of my male or female slaves
When they filed a complaint against me,
15“Did not He who made me in the womb make him,
And the same one fashion us in the womb?
). They all come the very same way in the world, which is naked; they leave the world in the same way, which is without taking any possession along with them (1Tim 6:77For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.). In the life in between, rich and poor “meet” one another, in both daily life and in the church, and always in God’s direct presence. In God’s presence there is no difference. All are sinners and all can be saved.

We can only deal well with all social differences when we all consider that God has made us. He makes no difference and does not prefer the one to the other, precisely because they are “all the work of His hands” (Job 34:1919Who shows no partiality to princes
Nor regards the rich above the poor,
For they all are the work of His hands?
). He urgently warns us by the apostle James in His Word that in the church we should not make a difference between the rich and the poor (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.).

At the same time the verse makes clear that God has also everything to do with what we possess. We are not only His creation, He also knows how we deal with our wealth or poverty and how we as rich and poor live and deal with one another.

To Escape from Evil or to Be Killed

3The prudent sees the evil and hides himself,
But the naive go on, and are punished for it.

“The prudent sees the evil” because he lets himself to be instructed by the Word of God and his relationship with Him. A prudent is not a clairvoyant. He who has understanding of God’s Word, sees that the evil comes to the full development in the world. God’s people are also given instructions how to escape from it (Isa 26:20-2120Come, my people, enter into your rooms
And close your doors behind you;
Hide for a little while
Until indignation runs [its] course.
21For behold, the LORD is about to come out from His place
To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity;
And the earth will reveal her bloodshed
And will no longer cover her slain.

Noah was warned about the Flood and “in reverence he prepared an ark for the salvation of his household” (Heb 11:77By faith Noah, being warned [by God] about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.). Because he respected God for what God had revealed to him, he built the ark as a shelter against “the evil”, the judgment, of the Flood. In this way he was saved from the evil and was not killed.

“The naive” are blind to the evil that is about to happen to them, even though they are warned about it. A naive is a careless person, a reckless person: somebody who refuses to see that the warning is about a real danger. He continues his stubbornness without sheltering himself. He is like someone who in a thunderstorm with thunderbolts, just keeps walking through a meadow, blind to the danger that he could be struck down.

The evil can imply death, but also all kinds of disasters can strike one in his life. The prudent knows by the teaching of wisdom where the dangers and traps are in his life and therefore he is alert. He will notice the threatening evil on time and will avoid it or eliminate it. He does that by hiding himself on time and seeking refuge with God.

We can think about an attractive proposal that is being offered to us, from which a great temptation is emanated, in order to lead us on the wrong way. Then we should directly take our refuge in God, for only then we can say ‘no’ to the temptation. The naive will be harmed because they are careless, uncritical and gullible. They are not equipped to survive in this world and in that way to prevent blunders that bring them into troubles.

We can also apply this verse to the gospel. The gospel offers the way of escape to the hiding place against the wrath of God. The prison guard saw the danger of the judgment and saved his life by believing the gospel (Acts 16:25-3425But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them;26and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.27When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped.28But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!”29And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas,30and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”31They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”32And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house.33And he took them that [very] hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his [household].34And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.).

The Reward of Humility

4The reward of humility [and] the fear of the LORD
Are riches, honor and life.

Where “the fear of the LORD” is, there is “humility”. These two spiritual qualifications belong together, they are inseparable. Respect for the LORD will lead to a humble mind towards Him and toward men. The spiritual power for a humble attitude towards Him and men can only be found in the respectful relationship with Him. Everything comes forth from the latter.

How special is it then that He rewards humility. But that’s the way He is. The Lord Jesus is the incarnation of this verse. He said of Himself that He is “humble in heart” and that we can learn that from Him if we take His yoke upon ourselves (Mt 11:2929Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.). If we are humble it is only because we have learnt that from Him. When God sees the attributes of His Son in His own, it pleases His heart. He rewards it with “riches, honor and life”.

These three rewards are not so much to be understood in earthly perspective, in money and appearance among men and a long life, but are rather to be considered in the spiritual sense. Whoever fears God in humility, receives understanding in spiritual riches; he will be honored by God and will enjoy the real life forever.

Thorns and Snares in the Way

5Thorns [and] snares are in the way of the perverse;
He who guards himself will be far from them.

The perverse are in a way where there are “thorns and snares”. Due to the thorns he gets injured again and again and due to the snares he gets stuck again and again. The injuries are spiritual. He is avoided and despised by people. The snares are also spiritual. His perverse way delivers him problems in which he gets more and more stuck, without any chance for him to get out of it. Still he does not realize that he is in the wrong way, because he is perverse and does not want to bow to God. Therefore he goes forth in this way which ends in death and the judgment of God.

The opposite of he who is perverse is “he who guards himself”. Such a person will be far from the perverse. In this way he avoids the painful thorns and the suffocating snares. He wants to live his life in fellowship with God, for that is a real life. It does not mean that he cannot get injured and doesn’t have problems, but he knows Him Who takes care of him and helps him.

Counsel for Training

6Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

This verse is one of the most familiar verses of this book. It is an exhortation for parents to give their child a good education or training. The word “train up” has the idea of ‘dedicate’, like a house or temple is dedicated. The young man has to be dedicated to God.

The training should be according to “the way he should go”, which means that he should be trained up according to his qualities and capabilities. They should be shaped in such a way that he becomes useful for God. The wise parent will discern the natural ability of the individual child and train him in it. A child that doesn’t have any gift for music, must not be forced to learn to play a musical instrument. The identity of the child must therefore be recognized, so that the parents can adjust the education to it. They should not allow themselves to demand impossible things, but continually give him orders that suit his gender, age, (spiritual) capacity and abilities.

By the way, it seems that in the first place it is about the direction of the way which the child should go and not so much what he is able or not able to. It is about “the way he should go”, about his way of life and the purpose of his life. The way he should go is not so much determined by his gift and capacities, but by the choices that he makes. Parents should teach him to make good choices, choices that bring him and protect him in a way of devotion to God (cf. Gen 18:1919For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.”). In the book of Proverbs there are only two ways that a child can go, which is the way of the wise and the righteous or the way of the fool and the wicked.

The child must be taught to dedicate his life to the Lord. If he has learnt from his parents at a young age to adjust his choices to that, he will do it also when he is old. We sometimes say: Old habits die hard. The choices we have made for the Lord at a young age have proven again and again how blissful that is. One will never give them up when he becomes old. Besides, the fact that he has become old, is a proof of the blessing of God, for reaching an old age is one of the blessings that are related to trusting in God.

In this verse it is about a general principle, not about a principle that is true in all cases. There are parents who have trained up their children in this way, though one child or some children still have deviated from a way of life to the honor of the Lord. This verse is applied to children that because of their training have chosen for the way of wisdom. Unfortunately, there are also children who despite the training of their parents still choose for the way of the fool. They are fully responsible themselves for that. It will make their punishment heavier which is related to going their own way. They had known better, but have consciously deviated from the way of life.

To Borrow, to Sow Iniquity and to Be Generous

7The rich rules over the poor,
And the borrower [becomes] the lender’s slave.
8He who sows iniquity will reap vanity,
And the rod of his fury will perish.
9He who is generous will be blessed,
For he gives some of his food to the poor.

It is generally known that “the rich rules over the poor” (verse 77The rich rules over the poor,
And the borrower [becomes] the lender’s slave.
). A rich man has power because of his money. Poor people are dependent on the favor of the rich man. Ruling doesn’t necessarily go together with harshness. It is about the fact that he who has money, has the power and he who does not have money, is powerless. It is not an order for the rich to rule over the poor, but an observation. Poverty makes people dependent on others.

In practice it is expressed when a poor man has to borrow money. By borrowing money from the rich man, he becomes “the lender’s” slave. The rich man now actually has power over the poor, because the poor owes a debt to him and is obligated to pay it back. If he defaults, the lender can use him as a slave to get the money back that he has lent.

Verse 88He who sows iniquity will reap vanity,
And the rod of his fury will perish.
is connected to verse 77The rich rules over the poor,
And the borrower [becomes] the lender’s slave.
. The rich of verse 77The rich rules over the poor,
And the borrower [becomes] the lender’s slave.
may misuse the blessing that God has given him, by making the poor to be dependent on him and make them to submit themselves to him. By doing so he sows iniquity. But according to the law of reaping what one sows (Gal 6:77Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.; cf. Job 4:88“According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity
And those who sow trouble harvest it.
; Hos 10:1313You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped injustice,
You have eaten the fruit of lies.
Because you have trusted in your way, in your numerous warriors,
), he will “reap vanity”. Any misuse, whether it is of power or something else that God has given, shall be punished by God.

God will make “the rod of his fury” perish, which means that He will destroy the power of those who sow iniquity. The rod, the symbol of the suppressive method which he has used, will perish with him. This is an encouragement for those who are being suppressed.

Verse 99He who is generous will be blessed,
For he gives some of his food to the poor.
is the flip side of both of the previous verses. There is a reward for “he who is generous”, which is he who is charitable and gives to the poor. That reward implies being blessed by God. It is here not about the rich who gives from his wealth, but about someone who shares with others what he has. He does not lend, like the rich does (verse 77The rich rules over the poor,
And the borrower [becomes] the lender’s slave.
), but shares his own bread with the poor. He shares with them, without any demand of compensation.

This way of giving is the example of God, Who also gave without any demand of compensation, with His Son as the highest Gift. One who gives like that will therefore be blessed by Him.

The expression, ‘he who is generous’, is literally ‘he who has a good (or ‘bountiful’ or ‘charitable) eye’. It indicates that one sees the need of others and helps unsolicited by giving his own property to the needy one or the one who suffers hardship. This person has a benevolent attitude and concern about the poor. He is a giver like God has meant him to be and in whom He delights (cf. 2Cor 9:77Each one [must do] just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.; Lk 14:12-1412And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and [that] will be your repayment.13But when you give a reception, invite [the] poor, [the] crippled, [the] lame, [the] blind,14and you will be blessed, since they do not have [the means] to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”).

Drive out the Scoffer

10Drive out the scoffer, and contention will go out,
Even strife and dishonor will cease.

If “a scoffer” appears somewhere in a group of people, he causes quarrels. He is a professional trouble maker, for he is not able to think orderly and discuss thoughtfully. It is completely out of his will and capability to deliver a contribution to the solution of a problem. The only thing he can do well and what he seeks, is to ridicule everything and everyone, which makes him to be hated by others in any company wherein he finds himself. He ruins the atmosphere.

One should not get into discussion with a scoffer. The only suitable measure to silence him is to put him outside the door and to refuse further access for him to come in. Then he will not be able to take control anymore, so that he cannot bring down the faith of the weak members of God’s people anymore. The maintaining of the scoffer puts a shame on the whole company. If he is sent away, then both the dispute and shame will stop (cf. Tit 3:1010Reject a factious man after a first and second warning,; Gen 21:9-109Now Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking.10Therefore she said to Abraham, “Drive out this maid and her son, for the son of this maid shall not be an heir with my son Isaac.”; Gal 4:28-3128And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise.29But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him [who was born] according to the Spirit, so it is now also.30But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, For the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman.”31So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.).

Purity and Grace

11He who loves purity of heart
[And] whose speech is gracious, the king is his friend.

“Purity of heart” and “graciousness of speech” go hand in hand. Only when someone is born again, when he has converted to God, he can have a pure heart. “Blessed are those who are pure of heart, for they will see God” (Mt 5:88“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.). He who loves purity of heart is related with God by faith, through which the heart has been purified (Acts 15:99and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.). He is in fellowship with Him.

Wherever there is purity of heart, there is also love for kind, gracious speech. The words that one uses and the way he says something, indicate what his heart is set upon; what his heart goes out to. The heart and the words that are characterized by purity and kindness are warmly welcomed by a king. A good king can appreciate that and will gratefully use such a person in his government. He will take him as a confidant, a friend, someone with whom he can share government matters.

The Lord Jesus is especially the King Who appreciates purity of heart and graciousness of speech. These are His features. With those in whom He observes these features, He has a special relationship of confidence. To them He reveals His thoughts and gives them thereby the ability so that they can tell them to those who are His own.

The LORD Preserves and Overthrows

12The eyes of the LORD preserve knowledge,
But He overthrows the words of the treacherous man.

“The eyes of the LORD” indicate His omniscience, that He sees and sees through everything. He sees the desperate attempts of the enemy to eliminate the “knowledge” about Him all over the world. However, He makes sure that the knowledge about Him will not disappear, but He preserves this knowledge by always giving people who acknowledge Him. Despite all the attempts through the ages, in order to eliminate the Bible and the believers, there has always been the knowledge of God on the earth through Bibles and people whom He has preserved and whom have passed on the knowledge about Him.

“The treacherous man” acts and speaks against the knowledge of God. He does not consider God and acts as if He does not exist. Or he claims that he has the true knowledge of God and drags others with him in the way of apostasy. A treacherous man is someone who has actually heard about the knowledge of God, but becomes apostate. All of his words are overthrown by God, all of his methods of unfaithfulness, both he himself and all who follow him. He himself is being overthrown, while everything he tried to destroy will triumph and last forever (Psa 119:152152Of old I have known from Your testimonies
That You have founded them forever.


An Excuse of the Sluggard Not to Work

13The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside;
I will be killed in the streets!”

A sluggard makes up the most ridiculous excuses not to work. He ‘sees’ dangers outside, but does not see the lethal danger of his laziness. The sluggard is too lazy to use his hands, but his brains do work hard. They produce the most absurd thoughts. The sluggard has a strongly working imagination. He would not dare to walk over the street to work. That might kill him, for “there is a lion outside”. He is the only one who sees this lion, for all other people are on the way to go to their work.

That his excuse is absurd and ridiculous does not bother the sluggard. Any claim that there is no lion, is firmly being rejected by him. He has ‘seen’ a lion, so that is enough reason for him not to go outside. A sluggard is a foolish prophet; he prophesies about a vision that only he himself has seen and in which he firmly believes.

Benaiah, one of the heroes of David, was of another kind. He went down to a real lion in a pit, not to be killed, but to kill the lion and in that way to eliminate a danger (2Sam 23:2020Then Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man of Kabzeel, who had done mighty deeds, killed the two [sons of] Ariel of Moab. He also went down and killed a lion in the middle of a pit on a snowy day.).

The Mouth Is a Deep Pit

14The mouth of an adulteress is a deep pit;
He who is cursed of the LORD will fall into it.

This is the first time in the section of this book (Proverbs 10:1-22:16) where sexual sin is being dealt with, while on the contrary, in the first section (Proverbs 1-9) it is often and emphatically dealt with. “The adulteress” is the woman apart from one’s own wife. Nobody should allow himself in his heart to have thoughts about sexual contact with an adulteress (Mt 5:2828but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.). Here it is specifically about women who seek to seduce a person to commit fornication or adultery.

It is remarkable that this sin always starts with the mouth, which means with the seducing and seductive invitation for fornication or adultery (Pro 2:1616To deliver you from the strange woman,
From the adulteress who flatters with her words;
; 5:33For the lips of an adulteress drip honey
And smoother than oil is her speech;
; 6:2424To keep you from the evil woman,
From the smooth tongue of the adulteress.
; 7:55That they may keep you from an adulteress [lit strange woman],
From the foreigner who flatters with her words.
; 9:16-1716“Whoever is naive, let him turn in here,”
And to him who lacks understanding she says,
17“Stolen water is sweet;
And bread [eaten] in secret is pleasant.”
). Her mouth, the words that she speaks and the way that she speaks to seduce a person, is described as “a deep pit” (cf. Psa 5:99There is nothing reliable in what they say;
Their inward part is destruction [itself].
Their throat is an open grave;
They flatter with their tongue.
). To fall in a deep pit makes us think of a stupid animal that falls into a deep pit which was dug to catch him. He who allows himself to be caught by the words of a harlot, is like a stupid animal (cf. Pro 7:2222Suddenly he follows her
As an ox goes to the slaughter,
Or as [one in] fetters to the discipline of a fool,

Into this deep pit someone falls “who is cursed of the LORD”. He who gives in to the temptation of an adulteress, doesn’t do that because God has sentenced him to it, but because God’s wrath is upon him due to his sinful way. He has stepped outside the fellowship with God. He who lives in fellowship with God, will not fall into that deep pit (cf. Ecc 7:2626And I discovered more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets, whose hands are chains. One who is pleasing to God will escape from her, but the sinner will be captured by her.).

When someone falls in the deep pit of fornication, it is a result of a life in sin. God’s wrath will not lead him to a life in sin, but it will be upon him because of a life in sin. God will give such a person over to sin (Rom 1:2424Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.; Psa 81:11-1211“But My people did not listen to My voice,
And Israel did not obey Me.
12“So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart,
To walk in their own devices.
). Nobody is destined to fall into sin. We fall into the deep pit because we choose for a way that’s full of deep pits. The mouth of the adulteress is one of them.

He who avoids her, will not be dragged into the deep pit by her with her words. The pit is as the trap of a poacher – it is almost impossible for someone to free himself from it, once he is caught in it. Therefore, if someone gives in to the seducing words of an adulteress, it is both a sin and his punishment.

The Rod Keeps Foolishness at a Distance

15Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.

Children can naturally do foolish things. Parents must take into account that their children are able to do the craziest things and commit the worst sins. The foolishness does not come from the outside but from the inside and is ‘ingrained’ in human nature. Every child is born in sin, which is in it (Psa 51:55Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.
). This sinful nature has been passed on by its parents. Parents, who do not consider their child is able to do the worst foolish things, are foolish themselves.

The most loving care does not prevent this foolishness, nor can it correct it. A young man can be such a fool that he does dangerous things, buys wrong things, chooses wrong friends, attends wrong occasions, steals and lies and deceives, reads wrong reading materials, watches pornography, etc. He must certainly be warned about such foolish things. But with only talking, one will not succeed. Discipline is necessary to correct these natural, sinful tendencies and to make the young man to become mature and wise.

A young man will not directly fall into the hands of a harlot. He should be taught at a young age already to clean up his room when his parents tell him to do so. If he does not listen, he should be punished. Then the rod must be used and he should get some slaps on his butt (but not be flogged by losing your temper!). ‘The big stick in reserve’ is necessary to use it in cases that arise.

Eli spared his sons from the rod of discipline; he did not even have an angry look at them, and they got killed (1Sam 3:1313For I have told him that I am about to judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons brought a curse on themselves and he did not rebuke them.). It is better to obey God’s Word than a government that contradicts God’s Word by prohibiting corporal punishment (Acts 5:2929But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.). Just take a look at the development of the youth that is raised without discipline.

To Make More and Come to Poverty

16He who oppresses the poor to make more for himself,
Or who gives to the rich, [will] only [come to] poverty.

The first line of the verse is not easy to understand. How can a poor make more for himself when he is being oppressed and robbed from his property? The most obvious explanation is that it is about spiritual wealth. He who oppresses the poor, seeks to harm him and make him unhappy. But when the poor puts his confidence in God, the oppression will cause him to have a closer fellowship with God, which is true wealth.

The second line of the verse shows the opposite. He who gives to the rich, for example, in order to get in favor with him and to get something done for him, “[will] only [come to] poverty”. Such a person makes himself to be a slave of men. He will therefore get very disappointed in his expectations, based on what he has given to the rich. He loses what he has given to the rich and will not receive what he expects. His spiritual lack is great.

In both cases it is about actions that result in the opposite of the intended purpose. The oppression that the poor undergoes, makes him rich, it draws him to God. Hardships shape a character. Giving something to the rich, in order to get something back from him, shows independence of God. Whoever does that will end up in poverty, both spiritually and materially.

Words of Truth Are Excellent Things

17Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise,
And apply your mind to my knowledge;
18For it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,
That they may be ready on your lips.
19So that your trust may be in the LORD,
I have taught you today, even you.
20Have I not written to you excellent things
Of counsels and knowledge,
21To make you know the certainty of the words of truth,
That you may correctly answer him who sent you?

In verse 1717Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise,
And apply your mind to my knowledge;
a new collection of proverbs begins, which is the fourth part of the book. From Proverbs 10:1 Solomon has passed on more general observations to his son and leaves their application to him. He did that by using verses of two lines with a clear cohesion in a few cases only. Now he proceeds with directly addressing and admonishing his son, as he did in Proverbs 1-9. He changes his way of addressing. We also see here that there are more verses that correspond with each other; there are no more separate verses of two lines, as in the previous part.

The verses 17-2117Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise,
And apply your mind to my knowledge;
18For it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,
That they may be ready on your lips.
19So that your trust may be in the LORD,
I have taught you today, even you.
20Have I not written to you excellent things
Of counsels and knowledge,
21To make you know the certainty of the words of truth,
That you may correctly answer him who sent you?
are an introduction. Solomon exhorts his son to dedicate himself to studying “the words of the wise”. In that way his spiritual life will get a strong basis. He will also be able to give wise counsel to those who ask him for advice. Knowledge is given to us, in order for us to serve with it, so that others may learn from what we have learnt. In that way we can serve our generation according to the will of God. We should thereby consider that the knowledge we gain might be very brilliant, but yet powerless if we do not apply them first ourselves, especially in our own lives (cf. Ezra 7:1010For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice [it], and to teach [His] statutes and ordinances in Israel.).

“Incline your ear” (verse 1717Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise,
And apply your mind to my knowledge;
) goes further than only listening or paying attention to. It has to do with bowing down in an attitude of humility. The willingness to learn is shown in the humble mind that one shows. He who is humble, can listen to the teaching which contains the words of the wise.

Young people often think that they know everything. One who realizes his need for teaching and is also willing to make efforts to get it, acknowledges his lack of knowledge and the necessity that he needs others to teach him. He will focus his heart on the knowledge that the teacher of wisdom has. He will accept and save the knowledge that this teacher passes on to him within his heart.

The word “for” with which verse 1818For it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,
That they may be ready on your lips.
begins, indicates that now the motive of the appeal of verse 1717Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise,
And apply your mind to my knowledge;
follows. “It will be pleasant” if the son will keep the words of the wise within him. It is about starting a provision of knowledge within the heart. When this knowledge is present, it can also be ready on the lips; words of knowledge can continually be spoken.  “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Mt 12:3434You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.).

In verse 1919So that your trust may be in the LORD,
I have taught you today, even you.
, the goal of the appeal of verse 1717Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise,
And apply your mind to my knowledge;
is given. That appears from the word “so” with which the verse begins. That goal is confidence in the LORD and not in one’s own understanding or capabilities. That is a matter of “today”, and therefore of every day, for every day is today. It is also emphatically addressed personally to the son – thus to everyone personally – because it is taught “you … even you!”.

Without reservation, Solomon calls what he has told and written to his son “excellent things” (verse 2020Have I not written to you excellent things
Of counsels and knowledge,
). Are we also convinced in such a way about that? Whether the truths of God’s Word are also ‘excellent things’ to us, appears from the time that we spend on the reading and examining of God’s Word. That also determines what we tell and write to our children about it. The counsels and knowledge that we pass on, will also become ‘excellent things’ when they see in our lives that they are also like that to us.

The father passes on “words of truth” with the conviction of the “certainty” of it (verse 2121To make you know the certainty of the words of truth,
That you may correctly answer him who sent you?
). This applies to the gospel and to everything that should give guidance in our lives. The Word of God has come to us “with full conviction” (1Thes 1:55for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.) because words of truth, of which there is no doubt about its certainty, have been spoken to us.

The father does not relativize, in contrast to what is often done with the Bible today. Statements from God cannot be considered ‘right’ anymore, for according to many, it is not more than an opinion. One is not allowed to say: ‘This is what the Scripture says’, but one should say: ‘I think that the Scripture says this or that’. Simple, clear statements are presented as vague or difficult to be explained. If God’s Word says that women are to be silent in the church (1Cor 14:3434The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says.), today interpreters say that it should not be read in such a way.

The Word of God is the only reliable touch stone that has been given to us. Also the form in which the words in God’s Word have been given to us, is reliable. It is the model, the example, to which we should focus and adjust our lives accordingly (Rom 6:1414For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.; 2Tim 1:1313Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.).

When we are convinced about the reliability of the words that the wise has taught us, and these words are in us, we shall speak words of truth to those who have sent us to somewhere with a certain assignment. People can rely on us. We are faithful in our reporting and we shall not give a better or worse picture than the reality.

The Lord Jesus has sent us into the world with an assignment. The only way for us to carry out that assignment well, is when we are fully convinced about His Word and pass it on, whether it is passing on the gospel to the unbelievers or teaching the local churches. With the words that we have spoken in His assignment, we can go back to Him and say that we have done what He has commanded us to do.

The LORD Will Punish Robbing and Crushing

22Do not rob the poor because he is poor,
Or crush the afflicted at the gate;
23For the LORD will plead their case
And take the life of those who rob them.

After the impressive introductory words of this new section in Proverbs we may expect a series of new, unknown proverbs. But that is not the case. It is often about matters that have earlier been dealt with in other words, such as the inhuman practices of suppressing the poor and miserable ones.

“The poor” is an easy prey for greedy people (verse 2222Do not rob the poor because he is poor,
Or crush the afflicted at the gate;
). The poor cannot protect the little bit that he has. He is helpless when violence is used against him. “The poor” can be falsely accused “at the gate”. The gate is the place of justice (Rth 4:1-21Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there, and behold, the close relative of whom Boaz spoke was passing by, so he said, “Turn aside, friend, sit down here.” And he turned aside and sat down.2He took ten men of the elders of the city and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down.; 2Sam 15:22Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the way to the gate; and when any man had a suit to come to the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him and say, “From what city are you?” And he would say, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.”; 19:88So the king arose and sat in the gate. When they told all the people, saying, “Behold, the king is sitting in the gate,” then all the people came before the king. Now Israel had fled, each to his tent.; Job 5:44“His sons are far from safety,
They are even oppressed in the gate,
And there is no deliverer.
; Amos 5:1515Hate evil, love good,
And establish justice in the gate!
Perhaps the LORD God of hosts
May be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
). He has no one to defend him.

The warning of verse 2222Do not rob the poor because he is poor,
Or crush the afflicted at the gate;
is motivated in verse 2323For the LORD will plead their case
And take the life of those who rob them.
. He who robs the poor and crushes him at the gate, will have to deal with the LORD. People may ignore the right of the poor, because they are not able to defend themselves, but they can be sure that there is Someone Who will plead their case, which is the LORD (cf. Psa 72:44May he vindicate the afflicted of the people,
Save the children of the needy
And crush the oppressor.
; Jer 50:3434“Their Redeemer is strong, the LORD of hosts is His name;
He will vigorously plead their case
So that He may bring rest to the earth,
But turmoil to the inhabitants of Babylon.
). And he who robs the poor, just because he is poor, will be judged by the LORD with the same judgment by which they have judged. He will take the life of the robbers.

Bad Company Corrupts Good Morals

24Do not associate with a man [given] to anger;
Or go with a hot-tempered man,
25Or you will learn his ways
And find a snare for yourself.

The son is warned again about bad company (Pro 1:10-1910My son, if sinners entice you,
Do not consent.
11If they say, “Come with us,
Let us lie in wait for blood,
Let us ambush the innocent without cause;
12Let us swallow them alive like Sheol,
Even whole, as those who go down to the pit;
13We will find all [kinds] of precious wealth,
We will fill our houses with spoil;
14Throw in your lot with us,
We shall all have one purse,”
15My son, do not walk in the way with them.
Keep your feet from their path,
16For their feet run to evil
And they hasten to shed blood.
17Indeed, it is useless to spread the [baited] net
In the sight of any bird;
18But they lie in wait for their own blood;
They ambush their own lives.
19So are the ways of everyone who gains by violence;
It takes away the life of its possessors.
), this time about someone “[given] to anger” and “hot-tempered” (verse 2424Do not associate with a man [given] to anger;
Or go with a hot-tempered man,
). It is here not about a necessary, but about a social relationship. At our work or at school we must associate with such people. We cannot withdraw ourselves from that kind of association. But we can keep distance from those hot-tempered people in our private lives. “A man [given] to anger” is literally ‘a man of heat’. “A hot-tempered man” shows the same character.

Verse 2525Or you will learn his ways
And find a snare for yourself.
gives the motivation for verse 2424Do not associate with a man [given] to anger;
Or go with a hot-tempered man,
. The proverb ‘bad company corrupts good morals’ indicates what it means. The father had already mentioned earlier what the contact with different people does do with his son (Pro 13:2020He who walks with wise men will be wise,
But the companion of fools will suffer harm.
). More than superficial contact with someone changes a person. If it is good people, you change for the good. If it is bad people, you change for the bad.

Angry and hot-tempered people get angry at the slightest thing. Any which way they feel to be hurt, will make them to proclaim their dissatisfaction. One can easily copy this hot-temperedness. Through the company with angry and hot-tempered people, one can get used to their hot-temperedness. He gets numb in his feelings because of the rejection by these bad characteristics and starts to accept them and even sympathize with them.

In this way he will find a snare for himself. That means that he will unconsciously behave like that, which makes him speak words and or commit deeds that deserve to be punished. “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1Cor 15:3333Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”).

Do Not Become a Guarantor for Debts

26Do not be among those who give pledges,
Among those who become guarantors for debts.
27If you have nothing with which to pay,
Why should he take your bed from under you?

The warning against becoming a guarantor for someone’s debts and confirming it by giving pledges has already been dealt with earlier (verse 2626Do not be among those who give pledges,
Among those who become guarantors for debts.
; Pro 6:1-51My son, if you have become surety for your neighbor,
Have given a pledge for a stranger,
2[If] you have been snared with the words of your mouth,
Have been caught with the words of your mouth,
3Do this then, my son, and deliver yourself;
Since you have come into the hand of your neighbor,
Go, humble yourself, and importune your neighbor.
4Give no sleep to your eyes,
Nor slumber to your eyelids;
5Deliver yourself like a gazelle from [the hunter’s] hand
And like a bird from the hand of the fowler.
; 11:1515He who is guarantor for a stranger will surely suffer for it,
But he who hates being a guarantor is secure.
; 17:1818A man lacking in sense pledges
And becomes guarantor in the presence of his neighbor.
; 20:1616Take his garment when he becomes surety for a stranger;
And for foreigners, hold him in pledge.
). That it has been dealt with repetitively indicates that there is a great danger in doing it. It corresponds with the bad friendships of the two previous verses. He who becomes a guarantor, grossly overestimates himself, for he doesn’t know about the intentions of the other person, and he also doesn’t know whether he is able to fulfill his obligations as a guarantor.

Here it seems to be the case that he becomes a guarantor for a debt which he cannot meet when the other person defaults. We may possibly conclude that from verse 2727If you have nothing with which to pay,
Why should he take your bed from under you?
, where the motivation is given for the warning of verse 2626Do not be among those who give pledges,
Among those who become guarantors for debts.
. When the person for whom he has become guarantor cannot pay his debt, he will have to pay it. But he cannot either. Then the creditor comes and takes his last possession, his bed, away. Then he has nothing at all anymore to rest on (cf. Exo 22:2626If you ever take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you are to return it to him before the sun sets,). The spiritual application is that he will have no rest anymore.

Do Not Move the Ancient Boundaries

28Do not move the ancient boundary
Which your fathers have set.

The boundary (stone) has also already been dealt with (Pro 15:2525The LORD will tear down the house of the proud,
But He will establish the boundary of the widow.
). Now something is said in the context of the distribution of land which has been fixed in the past. It is about “the ancient boundary”. That refers to the boundary (stones) which were originally fixed by the “fathers”, by which piece of land was marked and given to each tribe in the country (Joshua 15-19). Moses already speaks about it even before the people arrived in the land, so that when the people came into the land, they should not move the boundary of their neighbor (Deu 19:1414“You shall not move your neighbor’s boundary mark, which the ancestors have set, in your inheritance which you will inherit in the land that the LORD your God gives you to possess.; 27:1717‘Cursed is he who moves his neighbor’s boundary mark.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’; Isa 5:88Woe to those who add house to house [and] join field to field,
Until there is no more room,
So that you have to live alone in the midst of the land!
; Hos 5:1010The princes of Judah have become like those who move a boundary;
On them I will pour out My wrath like water.

This had to be said because there might have been somebody, driven by greed, who would have the nerve to move the boundary which marked the separation between his land and that of his neighbor. By moving this boundary stone somewhat further on the land of his neighbor he appropriated a piece of land which was his neighbor’s. The land of his neighbor became smaller and his became larger. This was a matter of land grabbing. Besides, it was a disrespectful act toward his ancestors.

A clear example of land grabbing is what Ahab did with the land of Naboth which bordered his land (1Kgs 21:1-221Now it came about after these things that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard which [was] in Jezreel beside the palace of Ahab king of Samaria.2Ahab spoke to Naboth, saying, “Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden because it is close beside my house, and I will give you a better vineyard than it in its place; if you like, I will give you the price of it in money.”3But Naboth said to Ahab, “The LORD forbid me that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.”4So Ahab came into his house sullen and vexed because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him; for he said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And he lay down on his bed and turned away his face and ate no food.5But Jezebel his wife came to him and said to him, “How is it that your spirit is so sullen that you are not eating food?”6So he said to her, “Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, ‘Give me your vineyard for money; or else, if it pleases you, I will give you a vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’”7Jezebel his wife said to him, “Do you now reign over Israel? Arise, eat bread, and let your heart be joyful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”8So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, and sent letters to the elders and to the nobles who were living with Naboth in his city.9Now she wrote in the letters, saying, “Proclaim a fast and seat Naboth at the head of the people;10and seat two worthless men before him, and let them testify against him, saying, ‘You cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out and stone him to death.”11So the men of his city, the elders and the nobles who lived in his city, did as Jezebel had sent [word] to them, just as it was written in the letters which she had sent them.12They proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth at the head of the people.13Then the two worthless men came in and sat before him; and the worthless men testified against him, even against Naboth, before the people, saying, “Naboth cursed God and the king.” So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death with stones.14Then they sent [word] to Jezebel, saying, “Naboth has been stoned and is dead.”15When Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, Jezebel said to Ahab, “Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth, the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money; for Naboth is not alive, but dead.”16When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, Ahab arose to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.17Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying,18“Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who is in Samaria; behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth where he has gone down to take possession of it.19You shall speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Have you murdered and also taken possession?”‘ And you shall speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, “In the place where the dogs licked up the blood of Naboth the dogs will lick up your blood, even yours.”‘“20Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” And he answered, “I have found [you], because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the LORD.21Behold, I will bring evil upon you, and will utterly sweep you away, and will cut off from Ahab every male, both bond and free in Israel;22and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, because of the provocation with which you have provoked [Me] to anger, and [because] you have made Israel sin.). Naboth absolutely did not want to sell his land by any means, because he appreciated his land so much as a family property. He speaks to Ahab about “the inheritance of my fathers” (1Kgs 21:33But Naboth said to Ahab, “The LORD forbid me that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.”). Ahab, however, did not respect it, but robbed it from Naboth, by having him stoned at the advice of his thoroughly corrupted wife Jezebel.

Modern forms of moving boundaries are the equation of man and woman, while God has clearly made them differently and has given them a different position in life. Moving boundaries is also the equation of cohabitation with a marriage, as well as the equation of marriage between two men or two women with the marriage as God has instituted, which is between a man and a woman.

He Who Is Skilled in His Work

29Do you see a man skilled in his work?
He will stand before kings;
He will not stand before obscure men.

Solomon is asking his son whether he has seen a man “skilled in his work”. It seems to indicate that such people are very rare. One has to look for them. It is someone who is active and diligent and also capable. He uses his time and talents optimally, with great effort and with wisdom. He will end up in the right environment, where his skill and expertise will be appreciated, which is “standing before kings”.

He will not stand before “obscure men”. It is not about putting himself above those men, but those men are living a corrupted standard of life. His skills would only reinforce them in their corruptness. He is a noble man with a noble profession and a noble mind, which is absolutely not to be found in the company of such a low kind.

Kings eagerly make use of his services, for such people do deliver an essential contribution to the glory and advancement of their kingdom. Joseph and Daniel are examples of people who were skilled in their work and were standing before kings. It is to be desired that we as believers can also be used by the Lord Jesus in such a way. Then He will say to us, when we come to Him: “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master” (Mt 25:21,2321His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’23His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’). Do we still see people who are skilled in the work of the Lord? Are we ourselves like that?

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