Proverbs
1 Honor Is Not Fitting for a Fool 2 A Curse without Cause Does Not Alight 3 A Fool Is like a Mule without Understanding 4-5 When Should We Answer or Not Answer a Fool 6-7 To Cut off Feet and Lamed Legs 8-9 Dangerous and Painful 10 What Fools Do, Brings Sorrow 11 A Fool Who Repeats His Folly 12 A Man Who Is Wise in His Own Eyes 13-16 The Lazy Fool 17 The Meddler 18-19 To Fool ‘Just for Fun’ 20-22 Gossip and Quarrels 23-28 Hypocrisy
Honor Is Not Fitting for a Fool

1Like snow in summer and like rain in harvest,
So honor is not fitting for a fool.

The fool that verses 1-121Like snow in summer and like rain in harvest,
So honor is not fitting for a fool.2Like a sparrow in [its] flitting, like a swallow in [its] flying,
So a curse without cause does not alight.3A whip is for the horse, a bridle for the donkey,
And a rod for the back of fools.4Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
Or you will also be like him.
5Answer a fool as his folly [deserves],
That he not be wise in his own eyes.6He cuts off [his own] feet [and] drinks violence
Who sends a message by the hand of a fool.
7[Like] the legs [which] are useless to the lame,
So is a proverb in the mouth of fools.8Like one who binds a stone in a sling,
So is he who gives honor to a fool.
9[Like] a thorn [which] falls into the hand of a drunkard,
So is a proverb in the mouth of fools.10[Like] an archer who wounds everyone,
So is he who hires a fool or who hires those who pass by.11Like a dog that returns to its vomit
Is a fool who repeats his folly.12Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.
is talking about is not someone who is mentally disturbed, but a rebellious person who denies God and is totally not interested in becoming wise. He is blind to his foolishness and does not seek to be liberated from it. The fear of the LORD does not interest him at all.

“Honor” is not fitting for “a fool”, just like “snow in the summer and rain in harvest time” are not fitting either. They simply do not go together. A fool is not to receive recognition, not to be clothed with power, not to get any position of influence. If he would receive honor, it will not change him, for he is and remains a fool in his thinking, speaking and doing.

It is not only contrary to the laws of nature, like snow in summer is not fitting, it is also harmful to what serves as food, like rain in harvest time. One of the evil things that Solomon has seen, is that “folly is set in many exalted places” (Ecc 10:66folly is set in many exalted places while rich men sit in humble places.). Honor to a fool is like a sore thumb at a wedding.


A Curse without Cause Does Not Alight

2Like a sparrow in [its] flitting, like a swallow in [its] flying,
So a curse without cause does not alight.

The flitting of “a sparrow” and the flying of “a swallow” is unpredictable and happens without any cause. Because they cannot be caught, there is no use trying it. So it is with a curse that a fool speaks without cause. It will have no effect.

Only fools curse like that. The foolish Saul cursed, which did not alight (1Sam 14:28,4528Then one of the people said, “Your father strictly put the people under oath, saying, ‘Cursed be the man who eats food today.’” And the people were weary.45But the people said to Saul, “Must Jonathan die, who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel? Far from it! As the LORD lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.” So the people rescued Jonathan and he did not die.). The foolish Goliath “cursed David by his gods” (1Sam 17:43-4443The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.44The Philistine also said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the field.”) and he himself got killed. Shimei cursed David and was punished for it (2Sam 16:5-145When King David came to Bahurim, behold, there came out from there a man of the family of the house of Saul whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera; he came out cursing continually as he came.6He threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David; and all the people and all the mighty men were at his right hand and at his left.7Thus Shimei said when he cursed, “Get out, get out, you man of bloodshed, and worthless fellow!8The LORD has returned upon you all the bloodshed of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the LORD has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. And behold, you are [taken] in your own evil, for you are a man of bloodshed!”9Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over now and cut off his head.”10But the king said, “What have I to do with you, O sons of Zeruiah? If he curses, and if the LORD has told him, ‘Curse David,’ then who shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’”11Then David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “Behold, my son who came out from me seeks my life; how much more now this Benjamite? Let him alone and let him curse, for the LORD has told him.12Perhaps the LORD will look on my affliction and return good to me instead of his cursing this day.”13So David and his men went on the way; and Shimei went along on the hillside parallel with him and as he went he cursed and cast stones and threw dust at him.14The king and all the people who were with him arrived weary and he refreshed himself there.; 1Kgs 2:88Behold, there is with you Shimei the son of Gera the Benjamite, of Bahurim; now it was he who cursed me with a violent curse on the day I went to Mahanaim. But when he came down to me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the LORD, saying, ‘I will not put you to death with the sword.’). So did the curses of Jeremiah’s enemies dissolve into nothingness (Jer 15:10b10Woe to me, my mother, that you have borne me
[As] a man of strife and a man of contention to all the land!
I have not lent, nor have men lent money to me,
[Yet] everyone curses me.
).

For the Old Testament believer, it is fitting to ask God concerning the wicked who does him wrong: “He also loved cursing, so it came to him” (Psa 109:17a17He also loved cursing, so it came to him;
And he did not delight in blessing, so it was far from him.
). If we as New Testament believers have to do with people who curse us, we are allowed to respond in the way that the Lord Jesus presents to us: “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Lk 6:27-2827“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.).


A Fool Is like a Mule without Understanding

3A whip is for the horse, a bridle for the donkey,
And a rod for the back of fools.

A fool is as difficult to exhort and to direct as “the horse” and “the donkey”. Neither the fool nor these animals respond to words. The animals are to be driven by “a whip” and “a bridle” (cf. Jam 3:3,7-83Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well.7For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race.8But no one can tame the tongue; [it is] a restless evil [and] full of deadly poison.; Psa 32:8-108I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go;
I will counsel you with My eye upon you.
9Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding,
Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check,
[Otherwise] they will not come near to you.
10Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
But he who trusts in the LORD, lovingkindness shall surround him.
). The fool must be called to order by the rod, because he cannot be called on his understanding. He is not to be given control, but he is to be controlled. The comparison with the mentioned animals makes clear that the fool has lost his human dignity and is treated the same way.

We can apply this spiritually to “empty talkers and deceivers” (Tit 1:1010For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision,), who we may consider fools. We must be very strict towards them: they “must be silenced” (Tit 1:1111who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not [teach] for the sake of sordid gain.). Being very strict to them is to be compared with the use of the rod.


When Should We Answer or Not Answer a Fool

4Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
Or you will also be like him.
5Answer a fool as his folly [deserves],
That he not be wise in his own eyes.

After an instruction in verse 33A whip is for the horse, a bridle for the donkey,
And a rod for the back of fools.
on how a fool should be dealt with, an instruction follows in verses 4-54Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
Or you will also be like him.
5Answer a fool as his folly [deserves],
That he not be wise in his own eyes.
on how a fool must be spoken with. The two verses are very similar and seem to contradict each other at first sight. But that cannot be the case of course. What seems to be a contradiction appears to be perfection on closer inspection. It is a matter of careful reading.

In verse 44Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
Or you will also be like him.
the indication is “not to answer a fool according to his folly”. The second line of the verse explains why that should not happen. Here it is about the consequence for the one who would answer. When you answer him, you become like him. If you respond to him, you also become a fool. This happens when you in your response descend to his level of thinking. Therefore you are not to do that. Do not lower yourself to the level of the fool by answering his foolish question and enter into discussion with him as if he is a wise man.

We can apply this admonition to what Paul is saying to Timothy: “But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels” (2Tim 2:2323But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.). We should not answer foolish and ignorant speculations, for otherwise we contribute to the cause of the quarrels.

In verse 55Answer a fool as his folly [deserves],
That he not be wise in his own eyes.
the indication is to answer “a fool as his folly [deserves]”. The second line of the verse explains why that should happen. Here it is about the consequence for the fool. Whoever rebukes a fool, discourages him to think highly of himself.

The reason why these two verses are put together, is to show that the human problems are often complicated and not always can be solved by an appeal to some rules. It depends on the situation. In one case we should not lower ourselves to the level of the fool, for then we enter the circle of fools. In the other case we are supposed to, for then the fool is put in his place.

Paul was once forced to speak as an unwise man, which is as a fool. That was to correct the Corinthians, who were wise in their own eyes (2Cor 11:16-1716Again I say, let no one think me foolish; but if [you do], receive me even as foolish, so that I also may boast a little.17What I am saying, I am not saying as the Lord would, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting.; 2Cor 12:1111I have become foolish; you yourselves compelled me. Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody.). The prophet Micha did both the one and the other towards Ahab (1Kgs 22:15,1715When he came to the king, the king said to him, “Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we refrain?” And he answered him, “Go up and succeed, and the LORD will give [it] into the hand of the king.”17So he said,
“I saw all Israel
Scattered on the mountains,
Like sheep which have no shepherd.
And the LORD said,
‘These have no master.
Let each of them return to his house in peace.’”
). If there is any mercy in our heart and also the willingness not to take away anything from God’s Word, the Holy Spirit will show us how we should respond to anyone (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.).

A preacher once answered a fool according to his folly. When he was asked a foolish question which was not answerable, he answered: ‘You can find the answer in the second chapter of the letter of Jude.’

Another remark that may be helpful to understand these two verses, are to be found in the Jewish Talmud. The Talmud contains the commentaries of the most influential rabbis and other scribes on the Tenach, which is the Old Testament. It states that verse 44Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
Or you will also be like him.
presumably refers to the foolish commentaries which are to be ignored and that verse 55Answer a fool as his folly [deserves],
That he not be wise in his own eyes.
refers to a misinterpretation of matters that must be corrected.


To Cut off Feet and Lamed Legs

6He cuts off [his own] feet [and] drinks violence
Who sends a message by the hand of a fool.
7[Like] the legs [which] are useless to the lame,
So is a proverb in the mouth of fools.

He who uses a fool as a messenger, will make himself to get into deep problems (verse 66He cuts off [his own] feet [and] drinks violence
Who sends a message by the hand of a fool.
; cf. Pro 25:1313Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest
Is a faithful messenger to those who send him,
For he refreshes the soul of his masters.
). First of all, it is like cutting off his own feet. The sending of a messenger is as it were having a different pair of feet. The feet of the messenger are the feet of the sender. Nothing good will come forth from the message with which the fool has been sent on a mission. He will not arrive at the right address or he will deliver a wrong message.

The consequences are that the sender will face the violence of the addressee. The addressee has not received the message which he was waiting for or he received it in a damaged condition, which makes him draw the wrong conclusion. That harms the existing good relations. The lesson is that it is better not to send a message than using a fool.

We can apply this to religious organizations that use unbelievers to spread the message of the gospel. Those organizations consider themselves an enterprise that must be run by skilled ‘businessmen’ who are successful in selling a message, which is the gospel in this case. The annual Dutch spectacular performance which is called ‘The Passion’, a dishonoring display of God which is about the suffering and crucifixion of Christ, is an example of it. Dutch celebrities are hired to sell the ‘product’ as best they can. But the result is that nothing is left from the gospel and that the testimony of the biblical gospel gets damaged.

Verse 77[Like] the legs [which] are useless to the lame,
So is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
complements verse 66He cuts off [his own] feet [and] drinks violence
Who sends a message by the hand of a fool.
. A lame has legs, but they are useless for him, for he cannot use them. He cannot make a single step with them. In that way a fool can speak out a proverb, but he does not know what it means. The proverb remains limp as the legs of a lame man; it is in his mouth without power. That is the case with all those wicked fools – people who don’t want to know anything about the fear of the LORD – who are hired to play a role in The Passion. They talk the Bible over like parrots, but they do not know what they’re talking about.


Dangerous and Painful

8Like one who binds a stone in a sling,
So is he who gives honor to a fool.
9[Like] a thorn [which] falls into the hand of a drunkard,
So is a proverb in the mouth of fools.

“One who binds a stone in a sling” (verse 88Like one who binds a stone in a sling,
So is he who gives honor to a fool.
), shows that he doesn’t know anything about a sling. A stone is not to be bound in sling but must be put in it loose. When the stone is bound in a sling, you can turn it around anyway you want, but the stone will not be shot away from the sling. Actually, it can be very dangerous, for the defensive weapon does not work by improper use. David would have been killed by Goliath if he had bound the stone in his sling. Because he had put the stone loose in the sling, he killed Goliath with it.

In that way, one “who gives honor to a fool”, does not know anything about a fool. A fool cannot deal with responsibility. He does not know what he is doing. He who gives a fool a responsible position will suffer its consequences to his own disadvantage.

A drunkard is not able to think soberly (verse 99[Like] a thorn [which] falls into the hand of a drunkard,
So is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
). Nor can he go a steady course. He speaks nonsense and waddles in the street. In his drunkenness he just grabs a thorn bush, which causes the thorn to pierce in his hand. Because he is drunk he does not notice anything of it. The thorn is a symbol of sin; after the fall the thorns appeared (Gen 3:1818“Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field;
). The hand is a symbol of working, of being active. In that way sin sticks to everything he does, while he does not notice it.

This picture is applicable to fools who take “a proverb in their mouth”. Like a drunkard who does not feel the thorn that is piercing into his hand, so are fools with no understanding of the proverb in their mouth. They are darkened in their understanding, but they think that they can speak wise words. A fool is able to read or speak a proverb, but mentally and spiritually he is not able to understand it. He will misuse it and apply it incorrectly.

People who do not have a living relationship with God by the faith in the Lord Jesus, can quote statements from God’s Word. But sin is attached to what they say. This goes especially for liberal theologians who read aloud texts from God’s Word and then give their own sinful explanation on it.


What Fools Do, Brings Sorrow

10[Like] an archer who wounds everyone,
So is he who hires a fool or who hires those who pass by.

The hiring of “a fool” or “those who pass by” shows the folly of him who does it. He who hires such people are compared to an archer who shoots off arrows haphazardly, by which everyone can be hit and wounded. “A fool” is just an unfaithful employee as those who accidently “pass by” of whom you neither know what kind of people they are. Everyone who hires – which means employs – a fool or a passer-by, gives him the opportunity to cause great loss by doing so. The general meaning is that undisciplined hired fools have the same effect as the haphazardly shooting of an archer.


A Fool Who Repeats His Folly

11Like a dog that returns to its vomit
Is a fool who repeats his folly.

“A dog” that “returns to his vomit” to eat again what he had once vomited, is quite a disgusting picture. At the same time it is a very powerful picture of “a fool who repeats his folly”. A fool will never learn. No matter how many his experiences are and how often he has already said that he will break with his folly, he goes back to his life in sinful folly again and again.

Peter quotes this verse in his second letter (2Pet 2:21-22a21For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.22It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A dog returns to its own vomit,” and, “A sow, after washing, [returns] to wallowing in the mire.”). He uses this proverb because it truthfully portrays what happens when someone has professed the Christian faith and then returns to the world. A dog is an unclean animal that greedily and shamelessly stuffs themselves with whatever it finds or gets with no sense (cf. Isa 56:1111And the dogs are greedy, they are not satisfied.
And they are shepherds who have no understanding;
They have all turned to their own way,
Each one to his unjust gain, to the last one.
). A dog does not know when to stop. When he has eaten too much, he vomits it. When he gets hungry again he eats his own vomit.

This illustration is applicable to people who have first forsaken the world, but then, stimulated by false teachers returns to it. They did not find inward satisfaction in the world and therefore turned their back to it. Now they turn back to it. This shows that they inwardly have not really changed. The dog remains to be a dog.


A Man Who Is Wise in His Own Eyes

12Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.

There is a man who is worse than a fool and that is someone who is wise in his own eyes. Self-conceit is in fact a part of the folly that is described in this book. An arrogant fool is the biggest fool. Haughty arrogance and an imaginary feeling of superiority place a man outside the range of any help or correction. The prophet Isaiah says to such people: “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!” (Isa 5:2121Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
And clever in their own sight!
). For them there is only a ‘woe’ left, a judgment without an end.

We are “not to think more highly” of ourselves than we “ought to think” (Rom 12:33For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.; Gal 6:33For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.). To us it is also said: “Do not be wise in your own estimation” (Rom 12:1616Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.).


The Lazy Fool

13The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road!
A lion is in the open square!”
14[As] the door turns on its hinges,
So [does] the sluggard on his bed.
15The sluggard buries his hand in the dish;
He is weary of bringing it to his mouth again.
16The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes
Than seven men who can give a discreet answer.

Verses 13-1613The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road!
A lion is in the open square!”
14[As] the door turns on its hinges,
So [does] the sluggard on his bed.
15The sluggard buries his hand in the dish;
He is weary of bringing it to his mouth again.
16The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes
Than seven men who can give a discreet answer.
are about the sluggard (Pro 6:6-116Go to the ant, O sluggard,
Observe her ways and be wise,
7Which, having no chief,
Officer or ruler,
8Prepares her food in the summer
[And] gathers her provision in the harvest.
9How long will you lie down, O sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep?
10“A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to rest”—
11Your poverty will come in like a vagabond
And your need like an armed man.
; 24:30-3430I passed by the field of the sluggard
And by the vineyard of the man lacking sense,
31And behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles;
Its surface was covered with nettles,
And its stone wall was broken down.
32When I saw, I reflected upon it;
I looked, [and] received instruction.
33“A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to rest,”
34Then your poverty will come [as] a robber
And your want like an armed man.
). We see the increasing passivity. First of all, he doesn’t come out of his house (verse 1313The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road!
A lion is in the open square!”
). Then he doesn’t come out of his bed (verse 1414[As] the door turns on its hinges,
So [does] the sluggard on his bed.
). Finally, he doesn’t even take off his hand out of a dish (verse 1515The sluggard buries his hand in the dish;
He is weary of bringing it to his mouth again.
). There is no movement in him at all and he can neither be moved.

He is fooling himself that the circumstances do not allow him to work (verse 1313The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road!
A lion is in the open square!”
). The sluggard is lazy, and a lazy man comes up with the most absurd excuses not to work (Pro 22:1313The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside;
I will be killed in the streets!”
). He sees a danger wherever he goes, in the street, in the open square. And wherever he goes he sees the resistance of the devil of which the lion is a picture (1Pet 5:88Be of sober [spirit], be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.), and which is hindering him to work. The real excuse is not fear, but laziness.

The sluggard is just as stuck to his bed as “a door on its hinges” (verse 1414[As] the door turns on its hinges,
So [does] the sluggard on his bed.
). He is in no way able to come out of his bed, just as a door on its hinges. The sluggard is turning on his hinges as it were in his bed. Just as a door moves back and forth, but doesn’t come out of his place, the sluggard turns from the one to the other side. A door has another function: it opens and closes, while the sluggard remains on the bed with no function.

The sluggard is even too lazy to bring the food which he took into his hand “to his mouth” (verse 1515The sluggard buries his hand in the dish;
He is weary of bringing it to his mouth again.
). In Proverbs 19 a similar kind of verse is written, though a little bit vaguer (Pro 19:2424The sluggard buries his hand in the dish,
[But] will not even bring it back to his mouth.
). Here it is said more strongly. Burying his hand in the dish has cost him so much energy that he has become weary. The wise man is making fun of the sluggard here. It is a ridiculous illustration of his situation. The intention of the exaggeration is also to make clear to the sluggard that he makes himself ridiculous.

Here we see a picture of people who are too lazy to examine God’s Word. They know something about it, they bury their hands in it and are able to quote a text – of course one which suits themselves –, but they do not eat it. Studying it is too much work.

The sluggard is filled with self-conceit (verse 1616The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes
Than seven men who can give a discreet answer.
). He is very pleased with his laziness and esteems his perception of life higher than that of those who make effort to obtain wisdom and, in that way, become prudent. Those are in his eyes stupid people. Work is for the stupid people, in his opinion. Of course he finds his laziness fully justified. He keeps a siesta all day long and preaches it as the highest good to himself.

He so firmly believes in his own wisdom that nobody can convince him to do otherwise. Even seven (wise) people – which is a fullness of wisdom (Ezra 7:1414Forasmuch as you are sent by the king and his seven counselors to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem according to the law of your God which is in your hand,; Est 1:14-1514and were close to him: Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media who had access to the king’s presence and sat in the first place in the kingdom—15“According to law, what is to be done with Queen Vashti, because she did not obey the command of King Ahasuerus [delivered] by the eunuchs?”) – are not able to make him aware of how anti-social his laziness is. His laziness has taken away his reasoning. He is absolutely not willing to listen and admit that he is wrong. He can in no way understand the wise response of seven wise people. Any admonition addressed to him is blocked by his self-righteousness.


The Meddler

17[Like] one who takes a dog by the ears
Is he who passes by [and] meddles with strife not belonging to him.

The man it concerns in this verse, is not a sluggard but one who is very busy, only with the wrong things. The meddler is one who is busy with matters that are none of his business. Someone who “meddles with strife not belonging to him” uninvited, asks for trouble. It is as dangerous as “taking a dog by the ears”, for that dog will bite you. It is not your dog, but a wild dog. You yourself will be harmed, which is something you are the only one to be blamed for.

An example of this is to be found in the life of king Josiah, who meddled in a battle between the king of Egypt and his enemy. It took his life (2Chr 35:20-2420After all this, when Josiah had set the temple in order, Neco king of Egypt came up to make war at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah went out to engage him.21But Neco sent messengers to him, saying, “What have we to do with each other, O King of Judah? [I am] not [coming] against you today but against the house with which I am at war, and God has ordered me to hurry. Stop for your own sake from [interfering with] God who is with me, so that He will not destroy you.”22However, Josiah would not turn away from him, but disguised himself in order to make war with him; nor did he listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God, but came to make war on the plain of Megiddo.23The archers shot King Josiah, and the king said to his servants, “Take me away, for I am badly wounded.”24So his servants took him out of the chariot and carried him in the second chariot which he had, and brought him to Jerusalem where he died and was buried in the tombs of his fathers. All Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah.). Peter still points to the big difference between endurance as a Christian and suffering due to meddlesomeness (1Pet 4:15-1615Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler;16but if [anyone suffers] as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.).

Are we not supposed to be peace makers? Are we not called for to do that (Mt 5:99“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.)? We certainly are. To be a peace maker is an attitude of keeping peace with all people. It does not mean that a peace maker meddles in a quarrel in which he is not involved. He will not fantasize that he should meddle without being invited to, or as in order from the Lord to do so. We are not called to meddle in any dispute. The Lord Himself neither meddled in a disagreement about an inheritance (Lk 12:1414But He said to him, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?”).


To Fool ‘Just for Fun’

18Like a madman
Who throws firebrands, arrows and death,
19So is the man who deceives his neighbor,
And says, “Was I not joking?”

The meddler from verse 1717[Like] one who takes a dog by the ears
Is he who passes by [and] meddles with strife not belonging to him.
has become “a madman” in verse 1818Like a madman
Who throws firebrands, arrows and death,
, or ‘someone who presents himself as a crazy man’. He is throwing materials that sow death and destruction. Someone who “deceives his neighbor, and says, “Was I not joking?” (verse 1919So is the man who deceives his neighbor,
And says, “Was I not joking?”
) is compared to such a man. This kind of person is consciously seeking to deceive a neighbor for whatever reason. When he is exposed, he tries to tone down his deceit by saying that it was a joke. People should not worry about it. If they do, they are the bad guys to be blamed, not him.

Someone who has this kind of attitude is an unguided projectile, a dangerous madman. The wise man describes the deceiver who makes his deceit look like a joke, as irresponsible and dangerous. While he is seeking to hurt people, he claims when he is caught, that he has intended it as something funny, of which he now expects people to laugh about it. At the same time, he is trying to escape his punishment. This is how many people are going through life, ‘making fun’ all the way.


Gossip and Quarrels

20For lack of wood the fire goes out,
And where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.
21[Like] charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire,
So is a contentious man to kindle strife.
22The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels,
And they go down into the innermost parts of the body.

The comparison in verse 2020For lack of wood the fire goes out,
And where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.
is that “wood” feeds fire and that a “whisperer” feeds contention. In order to keep a fire burning, fuel is needed. When there is no fuel, the fire goes out. The fire goes out when there is no more wood and the contention quietens down where there is no whisperer. Contention is like fire. It ignites others and destroys relationships.

The whisperer is the ignitor. He operates shrewdly; with his gossip he influences others negatively. Slander or gossip is fuel for contention. The whisperer must be deactivated. That is possible by silencing him. It is also possible by not listening to him. Then the contention will quieten down and cease.

The whisperer from verse 2020For lack of wood the fire goes out,
And where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.
is “the contentious man” in verse 2121[Like] charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire,
So is a contentious man to kindle strife.
. He has a nose for “strife” and knows how to “kindle” it. He delivers the fuel for it and throws it on the fire when there are tensions somewhere. There is a fire already and he adds the necessary fuel to it.

He is the counter picture of a peace maker, for he causes strife. And when the strife seems to be disappearing, he starts the fire once again. He does that by speaking some nasty or insinuating words about someone which causes the quarreling parties to fight one another again ferociously. Let us take care not to cause disputes, and when a dispute has been settled, not to say things that cause the dispute to start up again.

Why do whisperers and contentious men often get the chance to do their destroying work? Because gossip is so attractive to the sinful flesh (verse 2222The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels,
And they go down into the innermost parts of the body.
; Pro 18:88The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels,
And they go down into the innermost parts of the body.
). “The words of a whisperer” are compared to dainty morsels. They are greedily and deeply enjoyed by those who hear them. If we do not reject the words of a whisperer, they will go down into the innermost parts of our body and influence our feelings negatively. It will remain there like a smoldering fire and will destroy us if we do not condemn ourselves for listening to those words and not having rebuked them.


Hypocrisy

23[Like] an earthen vessel overlaid with silver dross
Are burning lips and a wicked heart.
24He who hates disguises [it] with his lips,
But he lays up deceit in his heart.
25When he speaks graciously, do not believe him,
For there are seven abominations in his heart.
26[Though his] hatred covers itself with guile,
His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly.
27He who digs a pit will fall into it,
And he who rolls a stone, it will come back on him.
28A lying tongue hates those it crushes,
And a flattering mouth works ruin.

One can camouflage the evil plans of his “wicked heart” (verse 2323[Like] an earthen vessel overlaid with silver dross
Are burning lips and a wicked heart.
) with “burning lips”, which means with a speech that burns of love. In a fervent speech such a person says pleasant things, but these things only conceal his bad character and his evil motives of devising evil.

The wise man compares such a hypocritical speech with “an earthen vessel” that has been “overlaid with silver dross”. The overlaying of the earthen vessel with something that looks like silver, makes the earthen vessel look wonderful, it is totally different from the clay which it is in reality. Also the silver is fake, for it is dross or in other words silver scrap (cf. Lk 11:3939But the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness.; Mt 23:2727“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.).

Verse 2424He who hates disguises [it] with his lips,
But he lays up deceit in his heart.
says in a different wording what has already been said in verse 2323[Like] an earthen vessel overlaid with silver dross
Are burning lips and a wicked heart.
. That is to prevent any misunderstanding about how deceptive a nice appearance can be as a covering for a corrupt heart. In the evil heart in verse 2323[Like] an earthen vessel overlaid with silver dross
Are burning lips and a wicked heart.
“hatred” is disguised. “He who hates”, can say nice and kind things, but he “disguises with his lips”. Disguising is pretending hypocritically or masking: pretending to be otherwise than one is in reality. To hate is ‘a condition of the heart’; verse 2424He who hates disguises [it] with his lips,
But he lays up deceit in his heart.
indicates that one who hates, carries this condition all the time.

The way that Joab approached Amasa and then killed him, illustrates this verse (2Sam 20:9-10a9Joab said to Amasa, “Is it well with you, my brother?” And Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him.10But Amasa was not on guard against the sword which was in Joab’s hand so he struck him in the belly with it and poured out his inward parts on the ground, and did not [strike] him again, and he died. Then Joab and Abishai his brother pursued Sheba the son of Bichri.). It is a warning for us not to allow ourselves to be deceived by what we see or hear. In an anti-God world, the Christian must not go his own way in gullibility, but with caution (Mt 10:1616“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.). Nehemiah was not gullible when his enemies tried to make him fall into the trap (Neh 6:1-41Now when it was reported to Sanballat, Tobiah, to Geshem the Arab and to the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall, and [that] no breach remained in it, although at that time I had not set up the doors in the gates,2then Sanballat and Geshem sent [a message] to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together at Chephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they were planning to harm me.3So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”4They sent [messages] to me four times in this manner, and I answered them in the same way.).

Verse 2525When he speaks graciously, do not believe him,
For there are seven abominations in his heart.
is directly connected to verse 2424He who hates disguises [it] with his lips,
But he lays up deceit in his heart.
. Solomon warns his son not to believe a hypocrite, even though he speaks “graciously”. Behind his gentle voice is hidden a heart in which there are “seven abominations”. It requires great shrewdness and wisdom to discern whether one can be believed or not. This verse may indicate a person who has already shown that he is unfaithful, but now uses words to hide his evil plans and put them into deeds.

‘Seven abominations’ indicates that this person is totally, thoroughly corrupt. Any kind of corruption is present in him. The hater devises abominations in his heart; he considers deeds that are horrific, terrible, and that those deeds which are now still plans, are addressed to him to whom he speaks graciously. His heart is a storage of abominations. Satan is the prototype of such a person, but there are also people who in this way look a lot like him.

To be able to discover the seven abominations behind a gracious voice, we need to be dependent on the Lord. If we hear something from someone whom we do not know or from somebody who is known to be unfaithful, we must ask the Lord to make clear whether he has true intentions. These intentions become clear anyway when that ‘friendly voice’ says things that go against the Word of God, as we can see in the conversation between satan and Eve.

Even though “hatred” remains unnoticed for a certain time because it “covers itself in guile”, there comes a moment when this evil will be irrevocably revealed (verse 2626[Though his] hatred covers itself with guile,
His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly.
). The place where it happens is “the assembly”. ‘The assembly’ is any meeting of people that have been gathered for a certain purpose. In this case we perhaps may think about a court case.

It is also applicable to the church of God, wherein God makes known that there is evil present. Ultimately all evil will be revealed before the judgement seat of Christ (2Cor 5:1010For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.). For “there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known” (Lk 12:22But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.).

Whoever intends to cause another person into ruin will often experience that he himself will be led to ruin which he had devised for the other person (verse 2727He who digs a pit will fall into it,
And he who rolls a stone, it will come back on him.
; Psa 7:16-1716His mischief will return upon his own head,
And his violence will descend upon his own pate.
17I will give thanks to the LORD according to His righteousness
And will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.
; 9:1616The LORD has made Himself known;
He has executed judgment.
In the work of his own hands the wicked is snared. Higgaion Selah.
; 10:22In pride the wicked hotly pursue the afflicted;
Let them be caught in the plots which they have devised.
). The digging of a pit and the rolling of a stone require hard work. It is about someone who makes a lot of efforts to cause another person into ruin. But “he who digs a pit will fall into it” (Ecc 10:88He who digs a pit may fall into it, and a serpent may bite him who breaks through a wall.). And he who rolls a stone to hurt another person, he himself will be hurt by it when the stone suddenly comes back to him. It is the law of sowing and reaping, for “whatever a man sows he will also reap” (Gal 6:7b7Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.).

Abimelech who killed seventy men on one single stone, was killed himself by a part of a mill stone which was thrown on his head by a woman (Jdg 9:5,18,535Then he went to his father’s house at Ophrah and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, for he hid himself.18but you have risen against my father’s house today and have killed his sons, seventy men, on one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his maidservant, king over the men of Shechem, because he is your relative—53But a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head, crushing his skull.). One is judged by the same standards of the unrighteousness by which he himself has judged, so that God’s righteousness is being done to him (cf. Jdg 1:6-76But Adoni-bezek fled; and they pursued him and caught him and cut off his thumbs and big toes.7Adoni-bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and their big toes cut off used to gather up [scraps] under my table; as I have done, so God has repaid me.” So they brought him to Jerusalem and he died there.). Other histories that illustrate this verse are to be found in what happened to Haman who had a gallows made for Mordechai and what happened to the accusers of Daniel who had let him be thrown in the lions’ den (Est 7:1010So they hanged Haman on the gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai, and the king’s anger subsided.; Dan 6:24-2824The king then gave orders, and they brought those men who had maliciously accused Daniel, and they cast them, their children and their wives into the lions’ den; and they had not reached the bottom of the den before the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.25Then Darius the king wrote to all the peoples, nations and [men of every] language who were living in all the land: “May your peace abound!26I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel;
For He is the living God and enduring forever,
And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed,
And His dominion [will be] forever.
27“He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders
In heaven and on earth,
Who has [also] delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.”
28So this Daniel enjoyed success in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
).

The reason why someone hurts others with his “lying tongue”, is because he hates them (verse 2828A lying tongue hates those it crushes,
And a flattering mouth works ruin.
). He is being driven by hatred. His lying tongue is in “a flattering mouth”, which speaks flattering words. This is most visible in the way that satan approaches Eve. This is how satan still operates by his countless instruments, which are people who have him as their father. He is the father of lies that brings destruction. His nature is present in his followers and comes to expression in them. In politics we regularly see and hear some samples of it.

All of these proverbs about hypocrisy, powerfully teach us how much the God of truth hates every attempt of deceit. They warn us against any adaptation to the slightest deviation from the truth and any lack of sincerity in our speech. Deviations from the truth and lack of sincerity are absolutely incompatible with the Christian profession.


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