Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New TestamentPROVERBS 24
Verses 1, 2
Be not thou envious against evil men; Neither desire to be with them: For their heart studieth oppression, And their lips talk of mischief.
Another admonition against envy is in Prov. 23:17. Envy is not merely destructive of the personality of the envious, but it also provides a motive for many kinds of wickedness. One is foolish indeed to envy wicked people, who, regardless of their earthly status, are doomed to eternal death. There is a strange attractiveness about evil. "Young people, and sometimes older people, are fascinated by the glamour and aura of success and power which sometimes clings to evil men."F1 The wise should look beyond all of that and consider the ultimate fate of all wicked men.
Verses 3, 4
Through wisdom is a house builded; And by understanding it is established; And by knowledge are the chambers filled With all precious and pleasant riches.
This proverb merely states that it takes wisdom to build, establish and properly furnish a house; but DeHoff is probably right in taking the passage as a metaphor of the fact that righteous and godly living are required to build, "A family, a good name, and to establish them."F2
Verses 5, 6
A wise man is strong; Yea, a man of knowledge increaseth might. For by wise guidance thou shalt make thy war; And in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.
The second line of Prov. 24:6 is identical with that in Prov. 11:14. This proverb stresses the superiority of wisdom over physical strength. One example of this is that, "A wise man constructs a machine, or a device, that will do the work of a hundred or even of a thousand men; but in all cases wisdom gives power and influence; and he who is wise unto salvation can overcome Satan himself."F3
Wisdom is too high for a fool: He openeth not his mouth in the gate.
In ancient cities, the elders of the people, or the rulers and principle men of the city, were accustomed to have their assemblies in the city gate, where open spaces were available. A fool would not dare to speak in the presence of the wise men. "Wisdom and a fool are incompatible."F4
Verses 8, 9
He that deviseth to do evil, Men shall call him a mischief-maker. The thought of foolishness is sin; And the scoffer is an abomination to men.
Prov. 24:8 here speaks of a man, so depraved and sinful that, "He needs no temptation of the devil, but contrives and plots sin in his own mind."F5 Significantly, a man's evil thoughts are here classified as sins. The universal detestation that scoffers deserve is stressed in the last line.
If thou faint in the day of adversity, Thy strength is small.
It is the crisis that separates the men from the boys. "If you show weakness in a crisis, your strength is small."F6 "Exceptional strain is a fair test of a man's mettle. It is the hireling, not the true shepherd, who will plead bad conditions, hopeless tasks, or pardonable ignorance."F7 The man who truly loves the Lord will be faithful, "even unto death."
Verses 11, 12
Deliver them that are carried away unto death, And those that are ready to be slain see that thou hold back. If thou sayest, Behold, we knew not this; Doth not he that weigheth the hearts consider it? And he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? And shall not he render to every man according to his work?
See that thou hold back
(Proverbs 24:11) actually means, See that thou hold them back that are perishing. The marginal reading (American Standard Version) makes this clear. Forbear thou not, to deliver.
Taken along with Prov. 24:10, there are three situations here where a true man, instead of avoiding his duty, should discharge it. "These are the crisis (Proverbs 24:10), the near-hopeless task (Proverbs 24:11), and pardonable ignorance (`We knew not this, Prov. 24:12')."F8 Such difficult, unanticipated and near-hopeless situations are to be expected in the Christian life (Acts 14:22). God pity the Christian who refuses to be involved, saying, "Well, that's none of my business."
Verses 13, 14
My son, eat thou honey, for it is good; And the droppings of the honeycomb, which are sweet to thy taste: So shalt thou know wisdom to be unto thy soul; If thou hast found it, then shall there be a reward, And thy hope shall not be cut off.
"Wisdom is to the mind what honey is to the mouth."F9
If thou hast found it. hope shall not be cut off
(Proverbs 24:14). Note the word IF. The teaching here is that one's eternal hope depends upon his finding wisdom. The wisdom that saves the soul is found only in the Holy Bible; and therefore an apostle has commanded us to, Study to show thyself approved unto God (2 Timothy 2:15). It is to be feared the TV set, the newspaper, the radio, and that roaring tornado of noise that Satan is blowing upon us from all directions have fatally interfered with many Christian's obedience to this commandment.
Verses 15, 16
Lay not wait, O wicked man, against the habitation of the righteous; Destroy not his resting-place: For a righteous man falleth seven times, and riseth up again; But the wicked are overthrown by calamity.
This warning is pointed squarely at the wicked, stressing the fact that God Himself blesses, preserves and protects his true followers. Christ himself promised to be with his followers "even unto the end of the world" (Matthew 28:18-20); and in spite of the fact that this is not a blanket exemption from the trials and misfortunes of life, what is stated here is a true and faithful promise of God's eternal preference for the righteous.
Verses 17, 18
Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, And let not thy heart be glad when he is overthrown; Lest Jehovah see it, and it displease him, And he turn away his wrath from him.
"This teaches that it is one's duty not to rejoice at the misfortunes of enemies. The word `rejoice' refers to audible expressions of exultation. This, of course is a negative commandment; but the positive side of it, `sympathy for enemies', although not expressed, may be implied (Matthew 5:44)."F10
Furthermore, this proverb does not teach that God may allow a wicked man to go unpunished, merely because some person rejoiced at his downfall. "The implication of the passage is that God might be more concerned with punishing his disobedient follower than that of the outright wicked."F11
Verses 19, 20
Fret not thyself because of evil-doers; Neither be thou envious at the wicked: For there shall be no reward to the evil man; The lamp of the wicked shall be put out.
Here is the basic proposition upon which the love and worship of God are founded, namely, his hatred of wickedness. The basic assumption of the God-fearing worshipper is that wickedness cannot win, that there will come a time when God in righteous wrath will rise up and cast evil out of his universe. The judgment scene in Matthew 25 envisions that very thing. For the people who understand this, the envy of the wicked, regardless of what blessings they may enjoy in the present life, is absolutely an impossibility.
It is a thoughtless Christian indeed who will fret himself because of success and blessings that attend obviously wicked people. It is inevitable that in a world where nearly all the people are moving in open rebellion against God, that all kinds of injustices and inequities should be, at times, the portion of the godly.
"The prosperity of the wicked is only temporary; they are detested by God (Proverbs 3:32), and are doomed (Proverbs 24:20)."F12 The second line of Prov. 24:20 is identical with that of Prov. 13:9.
Verses 21, 22
My son, fear thou Jehovah and the king; [And] company not with them that are given to change: For their calamity shall rise suddenly; And the destruction from them both, who knoweth it?
This passage has part of the instruction that the apostle Peter gave; "Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king."F13
Company not with them that are given to change
(Proverbs 24:21) apparently refers to malcontents seeking a change in the government; but there is even a wider application. Every church is plagued by a certain element within it which identifies change with `progress.' They are never willing for anything to continue very long without demanding a change. Not long ago in Houston, a church announced that a committee had been appointed to arrange a different order of worship every Sunday! Some decided to go somewhere else.
This brings us to the conclusion of the "Thirty Words" of the wise men; but sure enough, here are some more "Words of the wise men"!
These also are [sayings] of the wise. To have respect of persons in judgment is not good. He that saith unto the wicked, Thou art righteous; Peoples shall curse him, nations shall abhor him: But to them that rebuke [him] shall be delight, And a good blessing shall come upon them.
"God is no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34); and any man sitting in judgment upon others identifies himself as God's enemy when he respects the persons of offenders.
Prov. 24:24-25 cite an example of some magistrate's respect of the person of a wicked man, saying, "Thou art righteous." The hatred of peoples and nations for such behavior is certain to follow; but all mankind honors sound and righteous judgment; and the blessing of God attends it.
He kisseth the lips Who giveth a right answer.
This speaks of the appreciation that falls upon a witness who testifies honestly before a tribunal.
Prepare thy work without, And make it ready for thee in the field; And afterwards build thy house.
This is obviously a figurative or idiomatic expression meaning that, "Counting the cost and preparing the materials are preliminary prerequisites for the accomplishment of any enterprise."F14 Christ taught the same thing (Luke 14:28ff).
Verses 28, 29
Be not a witness against thy neighbor without cause; And deceive not with thy lips. Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me; I will render to the man according to his work.
These verses are related, both of them dealing with one's relations with a neighbor. Prov. 24:28 means that one should not witness against a neighbor "for spite"; and Prov. 24:29 warns against taking vengeful action against a neighbor for some alleged grievance. (Romans 12:19).
I went by the field of the sluggard, And by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, The face thereof was covered with nettles, And the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I beheld, and considered well; I saw, and received instruction: [Yet] a little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to sleep; So shall thy poverty come as a robber, And thy want as an armed man.
This, of course, is another denunciation of sloth and a warning against it. This ranks as one of the favorite subjects in Proverbs. It has already been treated in Prov. 10:26; 12:11,24,27; 13:4; 14:4,23; 15:19; 16:26; 18:9; 19:15,24; 20:4,13; 21:25; 22:13. See our comments under those references. Actually, this particular reference is the most colorful of all the denunciations of sloth. "A little folding of the hands to sleep"! Who could ever forget a line like that?
Footnotes for Proverbs 24
1: Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1971), Vol. 5, p. 76.
2: George DeHoff's Commentary, Vol. III, p. 295.
3: Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible (London: T. Mason and G. Lane, 1837), Vol. III, p. 769.
4: Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1971), op. cit., p. 76.
5: George Lawson's Commentary on Proverbs (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1980), p. 420.
6: The Anchor Bible (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1982).
7: Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Vol. 15, p. 154.
9: The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 4, p. 919.
10: International Critical Commentary, op. cit., p. 448.
12: The Anchor Bible (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1982).
13: 1 Pet. 2:17.
14: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 567.