Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New TestamentPROVERBS 25
MORE PROVERBS OF SOLOMON EDITED BY KING HEZEKIAH'S MEN (Prov. 25--29)
These also are proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied out.
(This verse is prose, not poetry, and serves, in fact, as the title of this section, which we have abbreviated and so utilized it).
Solomon spoke "three thousand proverbs" (1 Kings 4:32); and it is amazing that so few of them are to be found in the Bible.
It is the glory of God to conceal a thing; But the glory of kings is to search out a matter. As the heavens for height, and the earth for depth, So the heart of kings is unsearchable. Take away the dross from the silver, And there cometh forth a vessel for the refiner: Take away the wicked [from] before the king, And his throne shall be established in righteousness.
The glory of kings is to search out a matter
(Proverbs 25:2). This is not a reference to academic or scientific research, but, It praises administrative probes. A king should know what is going on.F1
The heart of kings is unsearchable
(Proverbs 25:3). This is just another way of saying that nobody knows what any king is liable to do. The kings of Israel were a constant illustration of this truth.
Take away the wicked from before the king
(Proverbs 25:5). This sets forth the requirement that if a king's throne is to be established in righteousness, he must have proven and trustworthy servants and advisors.F2 There prevailed among ancient kings the delusion that they ruled by Divine Right, and one may detect traces of this conceit in these verses.
Verses 6, 7
Put not thyself forward in the presence of the king, And stand not in the place of great men: For better is it that it be said unto thee, Come up hither, Than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince, Whom thine eyes have seen.
It is the glory of this proverb that Jesus Christ utilized in his teaching the grace of humility (Luke 14:7-11). As Tate noted, "The translation speaks for itself."F3 It needs no explanation or comment.
Go not forth hastily to strive, Lest [thou know not] what to do in the end thereof, When thy neighbor hath put thee to shame. Debate thy cause with thy neighbor [himself], And disclose not the secret of another; Lest he that heareth it revile thee, And thine infamy turn not away.
Another translation clarifies the passage: "Don't be too quick to go to court about something you have seen; if another witness later proves you wrong, what will you do then? If you and your neighbor have a difference of opinion, settle it between yourselves and do not reveal any secrets. Otherwise everyone will learn that you can't keep a secret, and you will never live down the shame."F4
Verses 11, 12
A word fitly spoken Is [like] apples of gold in network of silver. [As] an ear-ring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, [So is] a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.
Both of these verses deal with the desirability of appropriate speech. McGee wrote that, "The apples of gold were probably oranges."F5 However the mention of ornaments such as an ear-ring in the parallel verse, probably means that the "apples of gold" were some kind of beautiful ornament. Cook suggested that the reference is probably to, "Some kingly gift that Hiram king of Tyre had presented to Solomon. People gazed upon the cunning work and admired it; but the wise king saw in the costly rarity a parable of something higher."F6
As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, [So is] a faithful messenger to them that send him; For he refresheth the soul of his masters.
This subject appears in previous proverbs Prov. 13:17 and Prov. 17:2. See our comments there. It is amazing that "the cold of snow" would have been available in harvest time. This is either a reference to one's remembrance of the cold of snow, or to some device by which it was really available. Visitors to Monticello, the home of Jefferson, will remember the deep cistern where ice which was stored in winter was available the year around.
[As] clouds and wind without rain, [So is] he that boasteth himself of his gifts falsely.
We may have here the origin of the common designation of such a braggart as "windy" or as "an old wind bag."
By long forbearing is a ruler persuaded, And a soft tongue breaketh the bone.
"A prince may be persuaded by patience, and a soft tongue may break down solid bone."F7 Jesus may have had this in mind when he spoke of the 'unjust judge' (Luke 18:6). The American Standard Version marginal reading allows `judge' here instead of ruler.
Verses 16, 17
Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, Lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it. Let thy foot be seldom in thy neighbor's house, Lest he be weary of thee, and hate thee.
We might entitle these verses as, "Too much of a good thing is more than enough"! Even eating too much honey can lead to the body's rejection of it; and too much intimate association with friends can break up the friendship. All of us have known people who were what was called "too thick" with their friends and then saw the "break-up" that always ensued.
A man that beareth false witness against his neighbor Is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow.
This proverb is a reflection of the Decalogue, Commandment No. 9.
Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble Is [like] a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.
It would be hard for anyone to imagine two more uncomfortable conditions than those mentioned in line two. The more serious, of course, would be the foot out of joint (`broken' in some translations); because in loss of mobility one would be unable to flee from danger. To paraphrase the proverb it says that, "Trusting an unfaithful man in a crisis is both extremely painful and dangerous."
[As] one that taketh off a garment in cold weather, [and as] vinegar upon soda, So is he that singeth songs to a heavy heart.
"Singing gay songs to a heavy heart is like disrobing a man on a cold day, or adding sour wine to soda."F8 Again, this deals with something that is not appropriate and that will not be appreciated.
Deane noted that the soda mentioned here was `nitrate of potash' or saltpeter. ""It effervesces with an acid such as vinegar and becomes useless."F9 This is indeed a valid illustration of the uselessness of singing gay songs to the disconsolate.
Verses 21, 22
If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; And if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: For thou wilt heap coals of fire upon his head, And Jehovah will reward thee.
The teaching here is adopted almost word for word in Rom. 12:20. "Heaping coals of fire upon the head of an enemy" is a metaphor referring to the pangs of conscience that an enemy will experience upon receiving such undeserved treatment.
Illustration: In our rural community, where this writer grew up, a married couple were experiencing serious problems. A preacher, serving as a counselor, asked the woman, "Have you tried heaping coals of fire upon his head"? She said, "No, but I tried a skillet of hot grease"!
The north wind bringeth forth rain: So doth a backbiting tongue an angry countenance.
The versions reveal two different meanings of this. "The north wind drives away rain; so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue."F10 Here the angry countenance is that of one who hears the words of the backbiter. "The north wind brings forth rain; and a backbiting tongue, angry looks."F11 Here the angry looks are upon the face of the victim of the slander. The passage is true both ways.
It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, Than with a contentious woman in a wide house.
This is practically the same proverb as Prov. 21:9,19. See our comments there.
[As] cold waters to a thirsty soul, So is good news from a far country.
In a sense, what is said here is true of any good news; but what is implied in this verse is that, "The extreme difficulty of getting news from a distant place (especially in ancient times) heightened and increased the refreshment that such good news gave."F12
[As] a troubled fountain, and a corrupted spring, [So is] a righteous man that giveth way before the wicked.
"The yielding of the righteous man here is a reference to one who is forced to yield."F13 Just as a corrupted source of water for a community brings sorrow to them all, so the tragic overthrow of a righteous man is a heartache to the surrounding neighbors and friends.
It is not good to eat much honey: So [for men] to search out their own glory is grievous.
"The Hebrew here is difficult (obscure); but the RSV has guessed at it."F14 "It is not good to eat much honey, so be sparing of complimentary words."F15
He whose spirit is without restraint Is [like] a city that is broken down and without walls.
This is a reference to self-control, or discipline. Without it, a person is as certain to be victimized and destroyed as was an ancient city without any defenses. The necessary self-control, without which there can be no such thing as a happy and productive life, is derived from parental discipline when one is a child. This accounts for the stress that the Book of Proverbs lays on that very thing.
Footnotes for Proverbs 25
1: Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Vol. 15, 157.
2: Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1971), Vol. 5, p. 79.
4: The Good News Bible.
5: J. Vernon McGee, Vol. III, p. 85.
6: Barnes' Notes on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, a 1987 reprint of the 1878 edition), Proverbs, p. 69.
7: The New English Bible.
8: The Anchor Bible (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1982).
9: Pulpit Commentaries. Vol. 9, p. 483.
10: King James Version (KJV).
11: The Revised Standard Version.
12: International Critical Commentary, Vol. 17, p. 469
13: Delitzsch in C. F. Keil, Keil-Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), Vol. 6b, p. 169.
14: The New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 732.
15: Revised Standard Version (RSV).