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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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Prov. 11:1

Verse 1
A false balance is an abomination to Jehovah; But a just weight is his delight.

"Dishonest scales are abominable to the Lord, but a true weight pleases him."F1 This is one of many warnings in the Bible against dishonesty (Prov. 16:11; 20:10,23); and, of course, any kind of dishonesty is also abominable in God's sight. The false balances were those in which the heavy weights were used in buying and the light ones were used in selling.

Verse 2
When pride cometh, then cometh shame; But with the lowly is wisdom.

A number of other proverbs regarding pride are Prov. 13:10; 15:33; 16:18,19; 18:12; 22:4. "People who are proud will soon be disgraced. It is wiser to be modest."F2 The great sin of all mankind is pride; and Paul tells us that it was the sin that ruined Satan (1 Timothy 3:6).

Verse 3
The integrity of the upright shall guide them; But the perverseness of the treacherous shall destroy them.

"If you are good, you are guided by honesty. People who can't be trusted are destroyed by their own dishonesty."F3

Verse 4
Riches profit not in the day of wrath; But righteousness delivereth from death.

The Good News Bible rendered "day of wrath" here as "day of death"; but in the light of Rev. 6:17, that day is "the day of the wrath of God," i.e., the judgment day. In this interpretation, the "day of death" from which righteousness delivers is the "second death." It is also true that riches are of no value in the day of death.

Verse 5
The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way; But the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness.

"Righteousness traces out blameless paths; but ungodliness encounters unjust dealing."F4 The New Testament echoes this truth in the words, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." (Galatians 6:7).

Verse 6
The righteousness of the upright shall deliver them; But the treacherous shall be taken in their own iniquity.

"This is an emphatic reiteration of Prov. 11:5. The indulgence of their passions destroys sinners."F5 Another rendition is, "The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires."F6

Verse 7
When a wicked man dieth, [his] expectation shall perish; And the hope of iniquity perisheth.

The Spanish Bible renders this: "Cuando el malvado muere, Mueren con el sus esparanzas e ilusiones."F7 "When the evil one dies, there dies with him his hopes and expectations (illusions)."

Verse 8
The righteous is delivered out of trouble, And the wicked cometh in his stead.

There is some ambiguity here, but the RSV clears it up: "The righteous is delivered from trouble, and the wicked gets into it instead." "There are many examples in Scripture of where this has happened. Thus Haman was hanged on the gallows which he had erected for Mordecai (Esther 7:10), and Daniel's accusers perished in the lions' den from which Daniel was saved (Daniel 6:24)."F8

Verse 9
With his mouth the godless man destroyeth his neighbor; But through knowledge shall the righteous be delivered.

This knowledge by which the righteous man is delivered from the enmity of an evil neighbor was called by Keil, "That knowledge which makes them acquainted with men."F9 One must always suspect and reject the proposals and suggestions of men who are recognized as wicked.

Verse 10
When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth; And when the wicked perish, there is shouting.

"What's good for the righteous is good for the city."F10 There is a direct connection between the morality of the population and the happiness and prosperity of the unit, whether of an individual city or community, or of an entire society. Nations where the will of God is ignored will find an increasing decline in their happiness, their prosperity and in their standard of living. This very day, America is beginning to see this accomplished.

Verse 11
By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted; But it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.

This is an emphatic reiteration of the previous verse. "A town prospers when it has the blessing of upright men, but the words of evil men can destroy it."F11

Verse 12
He that despiseth his neighbor is void of wisdom; But a man of understanding holdeth his peace.

"He who belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent."F12 The first and great commandment is to love God ... and to "Love thy neighbor as thyself." This stands both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament (Mark 12:31).

Verse 13
He that goeth about as a tale-bearer revealeth secrets; But he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth a matter.

Of all the damaging habits of evil people, that of the gossip and the talebearer must rank very high indeed. "The one who comes to us with tales of others will also reveal our secrets."F13 "Any person who tells secrets about other people can't be trusted. But a person that can be trusted does not spread gossip."F14 As DeHoff said it, "There is no bigger fool than the one who tells everything he knows."F15

Verse 14
Where no wise guidance is, the people falleth; But in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.

"It is better when a people are governed by laws and conclusions resulting from the deliberation of many competent and authorized men, than when their fate is entrusted unconditionally to only one or to a few."F16 This proverb, however, does not necessarily apply to every situation. There is another proverb (not in the Bible) which says, "Too many cooks spoil the broth."

Verse 15
He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it; But he that hateth suretyship is secure.

"If you promise to pay a stranger's debt, you will regret it. You are better off if you don't get involved."F17

Verse 16
A gracious woman obtaineth honor; And violent men obtain riches.

Cook has a rendition here which clears up what otherwise seems to be two unrelated clauses. "A gracious woman obtains honor, As violent men obtain riches."F18 The meaning would then be that it is just as likely that a gracious woman will be honored as it is that violent men will get rich.

Verse 17
The merciful man doeth good to his own soul; But he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.

"A merciful man doeth good to his own soul; but he that is cruel casteth off even his own kindred."F19 "You do yourself a favor when you are kind. If you are cruel, you only hurt yourself."F20 The RSV leaves out the word only.

Verse 18
The wicked earneth deceitful wages; But he that soweth righteousness [hath] a sure reward.

"It is not real, what a bad man gains; but goodness yields a lasting profit."F21 A wicked man's deceptive wages will not provide for him what he expected.

Verse 19
He that is stedfast in righteousness [shall attain] unto life; And he that pursueth evil [doeth it] to his own death.

"The meaning here is that real, genuine righteousness has the promise of this life and of that which is to come (1 Timothy 4:8); and that the man who practices evil brings ruin, eventually, upon himself -- a trite, but unheeded warning."F22

Verse 20
They that are perverse in heart are an abomination to Jehovah; But such as are perfect in [their] way are his delight.

"Abomination, as taught in Proverbs, is a thing so radically full of evil, that it must be forced out some day, by the very necessities of the universe."F23 That God indeed finds in some human life a source of delight is a great encouragement. "How wonderful is the grace of God, which takes such kind notice of the righteousness of sinful men, imperfect as that righteousness must be."F24

Verse 21
[Though] hand [join] in hand, the evil man shall not be unpunished; But the seed of the righteous shall be delivered.

"The purpose here is merely to contrast the fates of the wicked and the righteous. The expression, `though hand join in hand' carries the meaning of `assuredly,' derived from the usual practice of striking hands in a bargain."F25

Verse 22
[As] a ring of gold in a swine's snout, [So is] a fair woman that is without discretion.

"If a beautiful woman is foolish, it is the same as a gold ring in a pig's nose."F26 The word `discretion' is a very comprehensive term. "It signifies physical taste, intellectual discrimination, sound judgment and moral uprightness."F27

Verse 23
The desire of the righteous is only good; [But] the expectation of the wicked is wrath.

"What good men desire ends in their favor: a bad man's hope ends in the wrath of God."F28

Verse 24
There is that scattereth, and increaseth yet more; And there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but [it tendeth] only to want.

"One gives away, and still he grows richer: Another keeps what he should give, and is the poorer."F29 This corresponds exactly with the promises of God in the New Testament (2 Corinthians 9:6-11).

Verse 25
The liberal soul shall be made fat; And he that watereth shall be watered also himself.

This repeats and elaborates what was stated in the previous proverb. "Wealth is not the result of miserliness, but rather the opposite."F30

Verse 26
He that withholdeth grain, the people shall curse him; But blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it.

The background of this proverb appears to be a situation in which evil men monopolized the supply of grain, withholding it from the market to increase the price. Similar evil practices are mentioned in Amos 8:4-6.

Verse 27
He that diligently seeketh good seeketh favor; But he that searcheth after evil, it shall come unto him.

"He who seeks what is morally good secures God's favor, while he that seeks what is morally bad brings down on himself divine retribution."F31

Verse 28
He that trusteth in his riches shall fall; But the righteous shall flourish as the green leaf.

The teaching of the antithesis here is that the man who trusts in riches is evil, and that the righteous man does not trust in riches, but trusts in God.

Verse 29
He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind; And the foolish shall be servant to the wise of heart.

"The man who brings trouble on his family will have nothing at the end. Foolish men shall always be servants to the wise."F32 There is implied here the fact of a man's primary obligation to be a blessing to his family.

Verse 30
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; And he that is wise winneth souls.

An alternate reading of the first clause is that, "The revenue of the righteous is a tree of life."F33 The proverb therefore deals with soul-winning, a truth missed by many of the translations and versions. The best rendition of the second clause here is in the ASV.

Verse 31
Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: How much more the wicked and the sinner!

The teaching throughout Proverbs is that in this present life the respective rewards of righteousness and wickedness are meted out; but while this is true in a secondary sense, subject to many variations, the far greater consideration was pointed out by the apostle Peter: "And if the righteous is scarcely saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear"? (1 Peter 4:18). Tate tells us that, "The Greek text of this verse (from the LXX) is reproduced almost exactly by the apostle Peter in 1 Pet. 4:18."F34

Footnotes for Proverbs 11
1: The Anchor Bible (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1982), Vol. 18, p. 85.
2: Good News Bible.
3: Ibid.
4: LXX.
5: The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 9, p. 213.
6: NIV.
7: Dios Habla Hoy.
8: The Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., p. 213.
9: CFK, Vol. 6, p. 235.
10: Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1971), Vol. 5, p. 39.
11: The Anchor Bible (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1982).
12: The Revised Standard Version.
13: Barnes' Notes on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, a 1987 reprint of the 1878 Edition), Proverbs, p. 37.
14: The Easy-to-Read Version.
15: George DeHoff's Commentary, Vol. III, p. 271.
16: C. F. Keil, Keil-Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), op. cit., p. 238.
17: The Good News Bible.
18: Barnes' Notes on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, a 1987 reprint of the 1878 Edition), op. cit., p. 37.
19: The Douay Version of the Bible (New York: Catholic Book Publishing Company, 1948).
20: The Good News Bible.
21: Moffatt's translation.
22: The Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., p. 217.
23: Miller in the Preacher's Homiletic Commentary, Vol. 13, p. 226.
24: Lawson in the Preacher's Homiletic Commentary, Vol. 13, p. 226.
25: International Critical Commentary, Vol. 18, pp. 232, 233.
26: The Easy-to-Read Version of the Bible (Fort Worth, Texas: World Bible Translation Center, 1992), .
27: International Critical Commentary, op. cit., p. 233.
28: Moffatt's translation.
29: Ibid.
30: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 561.
31: International Critical Commentary, Vol. 18, p. 237.
32: The Good News Bible.
33: The Cross-Reference Bible (New York: The Cross-Reference Bible Company, 1910), p. 1131
34: Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1971), op. cit., p. 41.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Proverbs 11". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  


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