1-2 To Boast Wrongly 3-4 Burdens That Are Too Heavy to Bear 5-6 Rebuke as an Expression of Love 7 Satiation and Hunger Do Change the Taste 8 Do Not Wander from Your Home 9-10 The Affection and Help of a Friend 11 A Wise Son Is an Answer to Reproach 12 A Prudent Man Hides from Evil 13 Obligations Have to Be Fulfilled 14-16 Improper Behavior 17-18 To Sharp and to Guard 19-20 The Heart and the Eyes of Man 21 A Good Name as a Test 22 The Fool Is and Will Remain a Fool 23-27 The Work of Man and the Care of God
To Boast Wrongly

1Do not boast about tomorrow,
For you do not know what a day may bring forth.
2Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
A stranger, and not your own lips.

He who boasts “about tomorrow” (verse 11Do not boast about tomorrow,
For you do not know what a day may bring forth.
), overestimates himself enormously. ‘Boasting’ about tomorrow means having the capacity to control the future. But nobody knows “what a day may bring forth”, which means what can happen in a day. That goes for both what still can happen today and for the day of tomorrow. The future is God’s territory. Nobody can decide about that. If we acknowledge it, it will humble us. It will cause us to submit all our future projects to Him, the sovereign God, Who guides all things.

Making plans is not wrong, as long as it happens in humility. Making plans as if we ourselves can decide about our destiny and have control over the future, is inappropriate (Jam 4:13-1613Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.”14Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are [just] a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.15Instead, [you ought] to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”16But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.). The Lord Jesus makes that clear in a parable of a rich fool who had planned to live for many years to come, but who dies the next night because God demanded his soul (Lk 12:16-2116And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive.17And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’18Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.19And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years [to come]; take your ease, eat, drink [and] be merry.”‘20But God said to him, ‘You fool! This [very] night your soul is required of you; and [now] who will own what you have prepared?’21So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”).

The proverb contains yet other teaching. We could learn from this proverb that we do not have to worry about tomorrow (Mt 6:3434“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.). We do not know whether the worries will be over by tomorrow. And if they are still there tomorrow, then God will still be there to help us. Another application is that we should not postpone until tomorrow what we can do today. That is all the more relevant when it comes to the repentance of a man. Then the appeal is: “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts” (Heb 3:1515while it is said, “Today if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me.”). When the repentance is postponed until ‘tomorrow’, it has become a day from the calendar of satan, that can be prolonged to the infinite (Acts 24:24-2724But some days later Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul and heard him [speak] about faith in Christ Jesus.25But as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you.”26At the same time too, he was hoping that money would be given him by Paul; therefore he also used to send for him quite often and converse with him.27But after two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, and wishing to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul imprisoned.).

Verse 22Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
A stranger, and not your own lips.
connects to verse 11Do not boast about tomorrow,
For you do not know what a day may bring forth.
. Verse 11Do not boast about tomorrow,
For you do not know what a day may bring forth.
says that a man should not boast in what he will do tomorrow, or in the future. Verse 22Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
A stranger, and not your own lips.
says that a man should not boast – the same Hebrew word which is now translated with ‘praise’ – himself for what he has done or what he is today or was yesterday, or in the past. It is good to do things that are worthy to be praised (Phil 4:88Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.), but not for one to praise himself for it. Praise is like a jacket that fits well. You may wear it if it is put on to you by someone else and not by yourself, for otherwise it will no longer fit well.

If other people praise you, it is good. If you praise yourself, it is a form of pride. The Dutch saying ‘self-praise stinks’, displays it well. It is a general saying which makes clear that also worldly people generally do not appreciate someone who talks a lot about his own performance.

We can be grateful about something that we have achieved and find joy in it. God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. However, there is a difference between us and God. God finds all satisfaction in Himself; we find it only in Him. He gives us the ability to do a certain work. If we have achieved something, we should say that we are unworthy slaves and that we have done only that which we ought to have done (Lk 17:1010So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done [only] that which we ought to have done.’”).

The appreciation comes from the Lord. He says to everyone who has served Him faithfully: “Well done, good and faithful slave” (Mt 25:2323His 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.’). The praise about ourselves is in no way objective. If we praise ourselves, we overestimate ourselves enormously. If the Lord evaluates us, it is an absolutely objective evaluation. In that sense His evaluation agrees with that of some stranger and unfamiliar person. Hypocritical elements do not play a role. It is a praise without any hidden intention.

Burdens That Are Too Heavy to Bear

3A stone is heavy and the sand weighty,
But the provocation of a fool is heavier than both of them.
4Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood,
But who can stand before jealousy?

“A stone” and “the sand” are heavy (verse 33A stone is heavy and the sand weighty,
But the provocation of a fool is heavier than both of them.
). He who has to bear them, experiences that they are weighty and that the work is exhausting and painful. “But the provocation of a fools is heavier than both of them”. The provocation of a fool is unbearable. It remains like a stone and sand on one’s heart who is dealing with a fool. The spiritual hardship which is involved in dealing with a fool, is much bigger than exhausting physical work. Job used the same illustration to describe the gravity of his suffering (Job 6:2-32“Oh that my grief were actually weighed
And laid in the balances together with my calamity!
3“For then it would be heavier than the sand of the seas;
Therefore my words have been rash.

In the sphere of the emotion, incontrollable feelings can be present which can cause a devastating effect (verse 44Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood,
But who can stand before jealousy?
). One can get so angry because of certain events and have a flood of wrath that he becomes cruel (Gen 34:25-3125Now it came about on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and came upon the city unawares, and killed every male.26They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah from Shechem’s house, and went forth.27Jacob’s sons came upon the slain and looted the city, because they had defiled their sister.28They took their flocks and their herds and their donkeys, and that which was in the city and that which was in the field;29and they captured and looted all their wealth and all their little ones and their wives, even all that [was] in the houses.30Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and my men being few in number, they will gather together against me and attack me and I will be destroyed, I and my household.”31But they said, “Should he treat our sister as a harlot?”; 49:5-75“Simeon and Levi are brothers;
Their swords are implements of violence.
6“Let my soul not enter into their council;
Let not my glory be united with their assembly;
Because in their anger they slew men,
And in their self-will they lamed oxen.
7“Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce;
And their wrath, for it is cruel.
I will disperse them in Jacob,
And scatter them in Israel.
). These outbursts of anger are inexcusable and the cruelties that one commits even less excusable, but after the discharge, a certain rest can arise.

Still worse, that those outbursts of anger are “jealousy” or envy. Jealousy is more unbearable than anger. It remains like a consuming fire. It consumes everything around itself and also the one in whom it is present. A jealous man is worse than an angry and furious man. Jealousy is never satisfied (Pro 6:32-3532The one who commits adultery with a woman is lacking sense;
He who would destroy himself does it.
33Wounds and disgrace he will find,
And his reproach will not be blotted out.
34For jealousy enrages a man,
And he will not spare in the day of vengeance.
35He will not accept any ransom,
Nor will he be satisfied though you give many gifts.
). No one can stand against it (cf. Jam 3:14,1614But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and [so] lie against the truth.16For where jealousy and elfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.). Abel fell prey to the jealousy of Cain as well as Joseph to that of his brothers.

Rebuke as an Expression of Love

5Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed.
6Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.

“Open rebuke” is a candid, direct word from honest criticism or disapproval by a friend (verse 55Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed.
). This is “better than love that is concealed” or a love that is too timid, too frightened, or not enough confiding to acknowledge that punishment is a part of real love. Love that does not manifest admonition is morally worthless. It is even a question whether such love is sincere. Anyway, love that withdraws itself from responsibility, is not complete.

Paul had to rebuke Peter once openly (Gal 2:1111But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.). But that did not aggravate Peter. Later in his second letter, he speaks about “our beloved brother Paul” (2Pet 3:1515and regard the patience of our Lord [as] salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you,). It is false love and in reality hatred, when we do not rebuke one of our children or a brother or sister in case it is needed (Lev 19:1717‘You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him.). Love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with truth” (1Cor 13:66does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;).

The proverb in verse 66Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.
says in other words the same as verse 55Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed.
. We all need somebody who loves us enough to tell us the truth about ourselves. He does not only say things that we would love to hear, but also things that we should hear. Sometimes it can be painful and cause wounds. But they will always be wounds without scars. With ‘wounds’ especially the wounding of the soul is meant.

We may have to point out something to someone because we see that something is going wrong. The addressed person has to make some correction concerning his or her behavior. That can be hard to swallow sometimes and may even cause a distance for a while. It may be considered an undesirable comment. But when the first emotions have been overcome and there has been a good consideration about what has been said, he or she will, upon reflection, profit from it and even consider what has happened to be a benefit (Psa 141:55Let the righteous smite me in kindness and reprove me;
It is oil upon the head;
Do not let my head refuse it,
For still my prayer is against their wicked deeds.
; cf. Rev 3:1919Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.).

In that way, grandparents for instance, may sometimes see things with their grandchildren, which have escaped their children, the parents of their grandchildren. It requires wisdom to mention it to the children in the right way and at the right time. But real love points out the error and does not wait until it is too late, and then go on to say that they had expected it to happen.

Contrary to the expressions of true love are the false expressions of love of the enemy. The enemy is not scanty with his “kisses”. They are “deceitful” in order to conceal his true intentions. Those are deceptive, hypocritical expressions. The most horrible example is the deceitful kiss with which Judas betrayed His Master (Mk 14:43-4543Immediately while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, *came up accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs, [who were] from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.44Now he who was betraying Him had given them a signal, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him and lead Him away under guard.”45After coming, Judas immediately went to Him, saying, “Rabbi!” and kissed Him.).

Satiation and Hunger Do Change the Taste

7A sated man loathes honey,
But to a famished man any bitter thing is sweet.

This verse sets “a sated man” and “a famished man” opposite to one another. The first one loathes or hates honey, while the latter finds even “any bitter thing” sweet. Too much of the good does not make the good bad but spoils the user. The more we have of something, the less we value it.

However, to a famished man it is the other way around. Hunger makes the bitter to taste sweet or as the saying goes, ‘hunger is the best sauce’, which means that when you’re starving, anything tastes good. Therefore, hunger is also called ‘the best cook’.

When it comes to eating and drinking for our bodies, the first part of the verse is increasingly true for the part of the world wherein we live: Europe. We are less familiar with the second part of the verse. In a spiritual sense both lines of the verse are applicable. Christians can have the feeling to be exalted above others because of the spiritual riches they have, while they despicably look down on others who – in their sight – know less than them (cf. 1Cor 4:88You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and indeed, [I] wish that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you.). They therefore do not accept anything from the ‘poor’ believers when they tell them something from God’s Word, but ‘trample’ it.

But those who are hungry and thirsty of God receive all things that they can learn from God’s Word with great gratitude. That very same hunger of God makes bitter trials to be sweet experiences (Exo 15:23-2523When they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah.24So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?”25Then he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree; and he threw [it] into the waters, and the waters became sweet. There He made for them a statute and regulation, and there He tested them.). In that way the bitterness of the judgment also becomes sweet when it is acknowledged as justified, because then the faith sees the effect of it (Rev 10:8-108Then the voice which I heard from heaven, [I heard] again speaking with me, and saying, “Go, take the book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the land.”9So I went to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. And he *said to me, “Take it and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.”10I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and in my mouth it was sweet as honey; and when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter.). The suffering gives a bitter taste, but the awareness that afterwards the blessing follows, makes the bitterness become sweet (cf. Rev 10:99So I went to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. And he *said to me, “Take it and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.”).

Do Not Wander from Your Home

8Like a bird that wanders from her nest,
So is a man who wanders from his home.

The parallel compares “a bird that wanders from her nest” and “a man who wanders from his home”. In both cases it is about a place of safety and security that is being abandoned. The reason for wandering is not given. It seems to indicate that it is about an irresponsible act, where no thought is given to what kind of value is being given up.

The word “wanders” gives the impression that someone cannot cope with the circumstances anymore and wants to try his or her luck somewhere else. The dissatisfaction of someone with his or her present living conditions, is often a motive to wander from that place. The lesson is to encourage people to protect their home and be grateful for it, also in less favorable times.

For those who are not satisfied with their circumstances, the grass is always greener on the other side. Elimelech left Bethlehem for a while because of economic reasons, in order to dwell in Moab as a foreigner for as long as the economic depression would last (Rth 1:1-21Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the land of Moab with his wife and his two sons.2The name of the man [was] Elimelech, and the name of his wife, Naomi; and the names of his two sons [were] Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah. Now they entered the land of Moab and remained there.). Things didn’t go well there. In the parable of the prodigal we see that the youngest son wandered from his father’s home because of selfish reasons. He left his father’s place where everything was very good and things went bad with him (Lk 15:11-1311And He said, “A man had two sons.12The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them.13And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living.). Also, a believer can ‘wander from his or her nest’ as Demas did (2Tim 4:1010for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens [has gone] to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.). A straying foot follows a straying heart.

The Affection and Help of a Friend

9Oil and perfume make the heart glad,
So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.
10Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend,
And do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity;
Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother far away.

“Oil and perfume” are pleasant for the body (verse 99Oil and perfume make the heart glad,
So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.
). When someone has used them for his body so that he looks nice and smells nice, it has a joyful effect on the heart. Cosmetics surely do something to someone. “A man’s counsel” has the same beneficial effect which he gives to his friend because of the affection he has for him.

The sweet counsel of a friend is pleasant when it is a friend who puts God first and enjoys the same fellowship with the Savior, which you also enjoy. A beautiful example is to be found in the counsel that Jonathan gave to his friend David (1Sam 20:10-1710Then David said to Jonathan, “Who will tell me if your father answers you harshly?”11Jonathan said to David, “Come, and let us go out into the field.” So both of them went out to the field.12Then Jonathan said to David, “The LORD, the God of Israel, [be witness]! When I have sounded out my father about this time tomorrow, [or] the third day, behold, if there is good [feeling] toward David, shall I not then send to you and make it known to you?13If it please my father [to do] you harm, may the LORD do so to Jonathan and more also, if I do not make it known to you and send you away, that you may go in safety. And may the LORD be with you as He has been with my father.14If I am still alive, will you not show me the lovingkindness of the LORD, that I may not die?15You shall not cut off your lovingkindness from my house forever, not even when the LORD cuts off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.”16So Jonathan made a [covenant] with the house of David, [saying], “May the LORD require [it] at the hands of David’s enemies.”17Jonathan made David vow again because of his love for him, because he loved him as he loved his own life.). The Lord Jesus always gives sweet counsel. In that way He makes hearts glad of those whom He calls His friends. One of His Names is “Counselor” (Isa 9:66For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

In connection to verse 99Oil and perfume make the heart glad,
So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.
, Solomon speaks about the value of a friend in verse 1010Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend,
And do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity;
Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother far away.
, particularly about the value of a ‘family friend’. Solomon himself also nurtured a friendship with Hiram who was already the friend of his father David (1Kgs 5:1-101Now Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants to Solomon, when he heard that they had anointed him king in place of his father, for Hiram had always been a friend of David.2Then Solomon sent [word] to Hiram, saying,3“You know that David my father was unable to build a house for the name of the LORD his God because of the wars which surrounded him, until the LORD put them under the soles of his feet.4But now the LORD my God has given me rest on every side; there is neither adversary nor misfortune.5Behold, I intend to build a house for the name of the LORD my God, as the LORD spoke to David my father, saying, ‘Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, he will build the house for My name.’6Now therefore, command that they cut for me cedars from Lebanon, and my servants will be with your servants; and I will give you wages for your servants according to all that you say, for you know that there is no one among us who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians.”7When Hiram heard the words of Solomon, he rejoiced greatly and said, “Blessed be the LORD today, who has given to David a wise son over this great people.”8So Hiram sent [word] to Solomon, saying, “I have heard [the message] which you have sent me; I will do what you desire concerning the cedar and cypress timber.9My servants will bring [them] down from Lebanon to the sea; and I will make them into rafts [to go] by sea to the place where you direct me, and I will have them broken up there, and you shall carry [them] away. Then you shall accomplish my desire by giving food to my household.”10So Hiram gave Solomon as much as he desired of the cedar and cypress timber.). It is a friend who has already proven his trustworthiness for a generation. He warns his son not to forsake or abandon that friend, but to cherish that friendship as something special.

A house friend is always close, both in literal and in spiritual distance. He knows the family. When the son would face a calamity some day and needs help, he doesn’t have to go to a brother who lives far away or with whom he has no spiritual contact, but he can ask the house friend for help. He lives nearby and knows the son from his childhood.

Real friendship doesn’t change. A real friend is a fellowman to whom you can also turn for help. For real friends there is no barrier because of a difference in generation. This especially goes for the Lord Jesus Who in all generations is the reliable Friend of all who know Him.

A Wise Son Is an Answer to Reproach

11Be wise, my son, and make my heart glad,
That I may reply to him who reproaches me.

A wise son first and foremost makes the heart of the father glad. An additional effect is that he gives his father the possibility to reply to his critics. Parents who educate their children in accordance with clear rules, sometimes are blamed for doing it wrong. They oblige their children to keep certain rules. They also keep them from certain liberties that other young ones do have or take. That goes together with the threat that their children will enter into the world later on, because they have found the yoke of their education too strict.

But an education out of the relationship with the Lord, with the wisdom of God and plain rules in love, will generally have a good outcome with the children. Children that are wise, justify their parents. Children are not called to behave well so that their fathers can reply to those who reproach them. That would be force and manipulation. Spiritual truths are no legacies. The wisdom that a son reveals in his life has not been inherited but acquired.

Children that go their way in accordance with what they have learnt from their parents, are the best recommendation of the value of the education that their parents have given. This also goes for God as our Father. We make His heart glad if we are wise, which we only possibly can when we listen to his teaching by His Word. His teaching that becomes visible in us, makes our adversaries to be silent. We can also apply this to all who teach God’s Word to fellow believers, for instance in Bible lessons and Bible lectures. We see that also with Paul in what he says to and about the believers in Thessalonica (1Thes 2:19-2019For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?20For you are our glory and joy.).

A Prudent Man Hides from Evil

12A prudent man sees evil [and] hides himself,
The naive proceed [and] pay the penalty.

The contrast is between “a prudent man” and “the naive” (Pro 22:33The prudent sees the evil and hides himself,
But the naive go on, and are punished for it.
). The first is the mature man who has developed alertness. The latter are the inexperienced and unskilled young ones who are easily being deceived because they are stubborn. The test that makes clear who the prudent is and who the naive are, is their response to the evil of the judgment that presents itself.

In order to escape from the announced evil, we must see the evil, we must acknowledge the evil. This is what the prudent man does, while the naive may also see the evil, but does not acknowledge it and even possibly ignores it or think that it is not that serious. The response makes clear whether one takes the coming evil seriously or that he is not worried at all. A prudent man actually seeks a place where he can hide himself from evil, while the naive will pay the penalty.

David escaped from Saul several times, because he foresaw what Saul intended to do. He hid himself and in that way, he kept himself out of Saul’s hands. Noah is also a prudent man. He hid himself in the ark, while all of the naive did not allow themselves to be warned and kept on living with their lives and therefore had to pay the penalty (cf. Jer 6:1717“And I set watchmen over you, [saying],
‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’
But they said, ‘We will not listen.’

Threatening evil should not make us nervous and cause us to make hasty decisions or actions, but it must make us to consider calmly what we should do to escape from it, for it will surely happen. A prudent man will hide himself in the right place, a place that really provides protection. He will not protect himself from the wrath of God’s judgment by hiding himself in a wrong place or in a wrong way, by for example clothing himself with the works of law.

After Adam and Eve had sinned, they covered themselves with the self-made aprons of fig leaves, which is a picture of self-righteousness (Gen 3:7-87Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.8They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.). But this covering or hiding did not work. They remained naked before God (Gen 3:10-1110He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”11And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”). God took care of the right covering, from an animal skin, which means that an animal had been killed in their place (Gen 3:2121The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.). That points to the only place of hiding against the judgment of God, which is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Isa 32:2a2Each will be like a refuge from the wind
And a shelter from the storm,
Like streams of water in a dry country,
Like the shade of a huge rock in a parched land.
). Whoever accepts Him in faith, is fully protected against evil. Those who reject this hiding place and go on with their lives, will have to pay the penalty themselves.

Obligations Have to Be Fulfilled

13Take his garment when he becomes surety for a stranger;
And for an adulterous woman hold him in pledge.

Connected to verse 1212A prudent man sees evil [and] hides himself,
The naive proceed [and] pay the penalty.
, becoming surety for a stranger (verse 1313Take his garment when he becomes surety for a stranger;
And for an adulterous woman hold him in pledge.
) is a matter that is announced as an evil. A prudent man sees the evil which is concealed in becoming surety for a stranger. He hides himself from evil by not taking part in it and in that way, he is kept from the loss of the pledge.

He who as a naive becomes surety for a stranger, runs the risk of losing his garment. His garment is the only thing that is left for him. If he loses it, he loses everything so that he is delivered to the cold of the night. He can never get it back, for it has fallen into the hands of “an adulterous woman”.

An application is, that we will lose the warmth of the Christian fellowship if we assume obligation which we cannot fulfill. We can recommend someone for a certain job and say that we will assist if the person that we have recommended does not comply. When the person does not comply, then we are to keep our promise. We cannot do more than what we were actually assigned for, but we have to do something which was not our assignment. In that way we lose a lot of warmth, for fulfilling our duties because of our own fault is much different than doing something out of love.

The lesson is that when we allow ourselves to be misguided to entering into obligation, we have to bear the consequences of it when it turns out that this stranger is unreliable. People must be held responsible to their obligations, no matter how foolish it was to assume them.

Improper Behavior

14He who blesses his friend with a loud voice early in the morning,
It will be reckoned a curse to him.
15A constant dripping on a day of steady rain
And a contentious woman are alike;
16He who would restrain her restrains the wind,
And grasps oil with his right hand.

Real friendship is not shown in an exaggerated, improper manner (verse 1414He who blesses his friend with a loud voice early in the morning,
It will be reckoned a curse to him.
). Anyone who wishes his friend all kinds of good things with a loud voice and at an inappropriate moment, does not seek his friend, but his own self. He wants his voice to be heard by telling how good his friend is, in order to boast in having such a friend. It is an exaggerated expression of praise of how good a person is.

The friend in this verse is clearly not amused by it. He doesn’t necessarily have to have such attention. The action of his friend is a curse to him. The neighborhood continually hears his name in association with all kinds of nice religious wishes. This does not arouse respect, but annoyance. Anyone who does this, probably wants to give the impression of being godly and being a friend, but he is considered a curse. Whenever someone is praised too much, aversion will arise instead of admiration. The friend knows that and therefore he is not glad at all with all of those eulogies.

It is a good thing to bless someone, which means wishing him well, but it should be in a good way and at the right time and with the right motives. A good deed done at the wrong time is regarded as a curse. It is better to speak with God early in the morning and to listen to Him by reading His Word than by spoiling a friend’s day with such a beginning.

The comparison of “a constant dripping” and “a contentious woman” has already been presented to us (verse 1515A constant dripping on a day of steady rain
And a contentious woman are alike;
; Pro 19:1313A foolish son is destruction to his father,
And the contentions of a wife are a constant dripping.
). Now “on a day of steady rain” is added, which is a day for one to stay at home, for the weather doesn’t allow him to leave his home. But also, inside the home he is not safe from the rain, because there is a leakage. He cannot find a hiding place anywhere.

This man is continually exposed to the contentiousness of his wife, without any possibility to escape from her. She quarrels all the time. It goes on and on with the consistency of the dripping of water, due to the leakage somewhere in the roof, which the man cannot find. There is rain outside and also inside the house, so that it is wet all over the place which causes one to feel the coldness right to the bone.

The woman is uncontrollable and unruly as the wind (verse 1616He who would restrain her restrains the wind,
And grasps oil with his right hand.
). The wind is intangible and unpredictable; a gust of wind can come any time. Also, oil is not to be grasped or to be held on to, not even with the right hand, which is the hand of power. It slips away through the fingers. It describes the hopelessness of a situation which cannot be changed by human resources.

To Sharp and to Guard

17Iron sharpens iron,
So one man sharpens another.
18He who tends the fig tree will eat its fruit,
And he who cares for his master will be honored.

Man is not made to be alone, but to be with others. He is a social creature and needs others to be able to show himself as man. One of the aspects of being together is the sharpening of each other’s insights and thoughts by talking with one another. It is about the identity or character of the person (verse 1717Iron sharpens iron,
So one man sharpens another.
). The comparison with the sharpening of iron with iron shows that it is about two equivalent materials. When two people talk with one another about a subject and also listen to one another, it sharpens the understanding of both person on that subject. It is win-win situation.

It is about the sharpening of character and understanding. A character is mainly shaped by contacts with others. Friends do not always have to agree with one another, but by talking with one another about something, both will gain insight. It sharpens them in their convictions and at the same time it takes the sharp edges away.

The fact that contact has a formative influence, applies in a special way to our dealings with our brothers and sisters with whom we share our thoughts about God’s Word. When we share what we have learnt about God’s truth, it is a sharpening of the faith of everyone. It gives a sharper insight in God’s thought, which enables us to serve one another with more insight.

In verse 1818He who tends the fig tree will eat its fruit,
And he who cares for his master will be honored.
it is about the care of working on our relationships, so that people not only develop a better insight and character (verse 1717Iron sharpens iron,
So one man sharpens another.
), but in correspondence to that, also fruitfulness and servitude. It is not about sharpening or edging, but about nursing and faithfully serving. The care of a fig tree is a matter that demands attention. Sufficient and appropriate care have the result that the care-giver will eat of its fruit. That is his reward.

This comparison is drawn with someone who cares for his master. He who does that faithfully, will not worry about whether his efforts will be recognized or rewarded (cf. Pro 22:2929Do you see a man skilled in his work?
He will stand before kings;
He will not stand before obscure men.
). Paul was a diligent and faithful servant who cared for all things that his Master had entrusted to him concerning truths. He did not abandon any of them. He knew that the Lord will honor him for that with a crown (2Tim 4:7-87I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;8in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.). So, the Lord shall reward each person in a suitable way for the faithfulness with which he or she has served Him (1Sam 2:3030Therefore the LORD God of Israel declares, ‘I did indeed say that your house and the house of your father should walk before Me forever’; but now the LORD declares, ‘Far be it from Me—for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me will be lightly esteemed.; 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.’; Jn 12:2626If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.).

The Heart and the Eyes of Man

19As in water face [reflects] face,
So the heart of man [reflects] man.
20Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied,
Nor are the eyes of man ever satisfied.

As clear water is like a mirror that fully reflects a face when looking into it, so does “the heart of man” reflect his true nature (verse 1919As in water face [reflects] face,
So the heart of man [reflects] man.
; 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.). God’s Word, which is compared with water (Eph 5:2626so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,), is also compared with a mirror (Jam 1:23-2423For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror;24for [once] he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.). It shows any man that looks into it, his own heart. What’s in his heart, is what he is. When a man becomes aware of it, he will be shocked and he will acknowledge his wickedness and beg God for mercy.

The same applies to the believer. By looking at the attitude of our heart, we come to a true self-awareness. What are we seeking with our heart? For example, when somebody retires, it often becomes clear where his priorities are. Is he going to spend his time in traveling, fishing, etc. or does he see new possibilities to serve the Lord? We often see in the way one spends his leisure time what he is seeking with his heart, whether it is about his own fun and pleasure or that Christ is in the center.

After the heart of man (verse 1919As in water face [reflects] face,
So the heart of man [reflects] man.
), our attention is drawn to “the eyes of man” (verse 2020Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied,
Nor are the eyes of man ever satisfied.
). The eyes of man are just as insatiable as “Sheol and Abaddon”. The eye represents here the lust of man that never gets satisfaction (cf. Ecc 1:88All things are wearisome;
Man is not able to tell [it].
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor is the ear filled with hearing.
). John the apostle speaks of “the lust of the eyes” (1Jn 2:1616For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.).

There is an enormous offer before us. We no longer see only the things that happen around us, but through television and internet there is a limitless offer of things which we can watch. A lot of these things influences our lusts. Also, the advertising leaflets, that enter our homes in an unstoppable flow through our letterbox, are trying very hard to draw our eyes and to awaken our lusts to what they are offering. Eyes devour everything they see as Sheol and Abaddon devour all people. The lust of the eyes never stops.

When it comes down to the lust for the things of this life, we must learn not to give in to them, but to be content with what we have (1Tim 6:88If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.; Heb 13:55[Make sure that] your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”; Phil 4:1111Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.). When it comes down to the lust for the spiritual things, the believers will “see the King in His beauty” (Isa 33:1717Your eyes will see the King in His beauty;
They will behold a far-distant land.
), which will make them to be satisfied with His picture (Psa 17:1515As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness;
I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake.

A Good Name as a Test

21The crucible is for silver and the furnace for gold,
And each [is tested] by the praise accorded him.

Silver is melted in the crucible to test it for its purity. An oven does the same with gold. The testing methods show whether something has been added in the silver or gold, which makes these precious metals impure. Solomon compares “the praise” which is accorded to someone with silver and gold and he also connects the conduct of a test to it. Someone who has a good name, should be tested whether he is really worthy of that name.

That test is honor. Honor is attached to one’s good name. His attitude toward that, makes clear how he really is. He can accept the honor that he gets as something he accords to his own performance, or he can be grateful to God for it, for he owes everything to Him. This is applicable when we have ‘made a name’ for ourselves in any area.

As the crucible brings all impurities to the surface, so will a praising audience bring all evilness of man to the surface. If that is not the case, he is worthy of his good name. This will only be the case with someone who realizes that he has nothing that he did not receive but owes all things to God (1Cor 4:7a7For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?).

Anyone who calls himself a Christian according to the ‘good name’ of Christ, will be tested for his confession. God can use all kinds of ways or circumstances for that. When people honor us because of our being Christians, it is a test. Do we take that honor or do we accord it to Him?

The Fool Is and Will Remain a Fool

22Though you pound a fool
In a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain,
[Yet] his foolishness will not depart from him.

Foolishness cannot be removed with an iron fist, because foolishness is the nature of a fool. Even the most drastic discipline cannot bring a change in the fool. This is represented in the picture of the crushing of grain in a mortar by a pestle (a mortar is a vessel with a pestle in which something can be crushed of ground). No matter how he would be crushed, he is and remains foolish (cf. Jer 13:2323“Can the Ethiopian change his skin
Or the leopard his spots?
[Then] you also can do good
Who are accustomed to doing evil.

Only judgment will not change a man. Pharaoh was crushed again and again as it were with a pestle in a mortar by the plagues that God brought over him and his people and his country, but he did not change (Exodus 7-11). The mercy of God must also be used if a man really wants to be redeemed from his foolishness. Through repentance he will receive a new nature and becomes a new creation.

The Work of Man and the Care of God

23Know well the condition of your flocks,
[And] pay attention to your herds;
24For riches are not forever,
Nor does a crown [endure] to all generations.
25[When] the grass disappears, the new growth is seen,
And the herbs of the mountains are gathered in,
26The lambs [will be] for your clothing,
And the goats [will bring] the price of a field,
27And [there will be] goats’ milk enough for your food,
For the food of your household,
And sustenance for your maidens.

The verses 23-2723Know well the condition of your flocks,
[And] pay attention to your herds;
24For riches are not forever,
Nor does a crown [endure] to all generations.
25[When] the grass disappears, the new growth is seen,
And the herbs of the mountains are gathered in,
26The lambs [will be] for your clothing,
And the goats [will bring] the price of a field,
27And [there will be] goats’ milk enough for your food,
For the food of your household,
And sustenance for your maidens.
are as it were a brief poem about the responsibility of a man to take care of earnings in order to provide his family and those who belong to his house, whatever they need. From these verses it appears how important it is to be diligent in work. They speak also of the satisfaction that working diligently gives and of God’s providing care.

It is about working in the calling for which God has called us in everyday life, with the intention that livelihood is taken care of for all who have been entrusted to the worker (1Cor 7:2020Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called.). God wants man to work and that man also does it diligently. If he does not, then he and those who belong to his house will suffer hunger. In order to help him, God delivers resources which man need and which He alone can give. That should make man realize that he is dependent of God in all of his activities.

We must know very well what we are doing, what our work consists of, and also how we should do our work. Solomon says to his son that he should master his ‘skill’ well. He advises him to make sure that he knows his sheep very well (verse 2323Know well the condition of your flocks,
[And] pay attention to your herds;
). That is only possible by giving personal attention to each sheep, caring about him and nursing him, so that they all have everything they need concerning food and protection. He can only bring this into practice when he pays attention to his flock, he must love them. One should pay attention to his business, otherwise, within a short time he will have no business anymore to which he can pay attention to.

We can apply this verse to our family if we have a family, to our children and to our work. The same goes for the care in the church of God. The church of God is compared with a flock (Acts 20:2828Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.). The care of that has been given to the elders by God. Peter had to take care of the lambs and sheep of the Lord Jesus (Jn 21:15-1715So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus *said to Simon Peter, “Simon, [son] of John, do you love Me more than these?” He *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He *said to him, “Tend My lambs.”16He *said to him again a second time, “Simon, [son] of John, do you love Me?” He *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He *said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.”17He *said to him the third time, “Simon, [son] of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus *said to him, “Tend My sheep.; 1Pet 5:1-41Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as [your] fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed,2shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to [the will of] God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness;3nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.4And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.).

“For” (verse 2424For riches are not forever,
Nor does a crown [endure] to all generations.
) indicates the reason for the exhortation of the previous verse. In case of negligence and laziness, the riches or prosperity will disappear. There is no guarantee that prosperity (riches) and kingdom (crown) are forever, that you will never cease to enjoy them. You cannot count on it automatically. In order to have permanent benefit of it, we should always be working diligently for it.

The believer has been given many spiritual riches and a royal position. Those are forever, but not transmittable. God also expects us to work with those gifts and serve others with them. Thereby we should realize that the time that we have to work for the Lord, is limited. We can only work now, as long as we are on earth, for Him. He also exhorts us to do so: “Do business [with this] until I come back” (Lk 19:1313And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, ‘Do business [with this] until I come [back].’).

Verse 2525[When] the grass disappears, the new growth is seen,
And the herbs of the mountains are gathered in,
combines the hard working by man with God’s work. God makes the “first grass” to grow, without any human intervention (Mk 4:2828The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head.). He does it according to His wise policy, in stages. When the first (blades of) grass have been produced, man can mow it and harvest it as hay from the field. Then it is removed from the field. But the work of God goes on, “the new growth is seen”. God continually gives new growth (cf. Amos 7:11Thus the Lord GOD showed me, and behold, He was forming a locust-swarm when the spring crop began to sprout. And behold, the spring crop [was] after the king’s mowing.). Man does not have to sow for new growth. God gives it and man can mow it.

He also made “the herbs of the mountains” to grow and man can also gather them. Mountains are among other a picture of difficulties. Collecting herbs on mountains requires extra efforts. Mountains have to be climbed, but that will surely deliver something valuable. Extra money will be earned. Herbs make food tasteful and are also used for the production of medicines. In this way every effort in the work of the Lord is being rewarded at a higher rate (1Cor 15:5858Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not [in] vain in the Lord.).

The lambs deliver wool (verse 2626The lambs [will be] for your clothing,
And the goats [will bring] the price of a field,
). Out of that, clothing can be made with which the shepherd can keep himself warm (Job 31:2020If his loins have not thanked me,
And if he has not been warmed with the fleece of my sheep,
). He can sell his goats (cf. Eze 27:2121Arabia and all the princes of Kedar, they were your customers for lambs, rams and goats; for these they were your customers.). That gives him the opportunity to make new investments, for example for buying a new field.

Besides clothing, he also has “enough goats’ milk … for food” (verse 2727And [there will be] goats’ milk enough for your food,
For the food of your household,
And sustenance for your maidens.
). That food is for both himself and his household and the maidens. From his care for his business, everyone in his environment will profit. That is also the case in spiritual sense. He who is faithful in the things of the Lord, is a blessing for others.

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