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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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Prov. 19:1

Verse 1
Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity Than he that is perverse in his lips and is a fool.

"Better a poor man who lives virtuously than a dissembler who is rich."F1

Verse 2
Also, that the soul be without knowledge is not good; And he that hasteth with his feet sinneth.

"Zeal without knowledge is not a good thing, for a man in a hurry makes a slip."F2 In both of these verses, it is evident that the Anchor Bible has changed the meaning in order to give a better antithesis. The RSV, more faithful to the text, accepts the second clause of Prov. 19:2, reading, "He who makes haste with his feet misses the way,"F3 but retains the second clause of Prov. 19:1 as we have it in the ASV. Many of the recent translations take unjustified liberties with the MT; and although their renditions are true enough, in most instances, it should be remembered that the end result of their changes gives us the words of men instead of the Word of God.

Verse 3
The foolishness of man subverteth his way; And his heart fretteth against Jehovah.

"It is a foolish thing for us to fall into difficulty (due to our own stubbornness or foolishness) and then to blame God for our calamities which we have brought upon ourselves."F4

Verse 4
Wealth addeth many friends; But the poor is separated from his friend.

Our comment on Prov. 14:20 is applicable here. We also refer to Vol. 3 of our New Testament Series (Luke), pp. 316-317, where deceitful wealth is discussed. It surrounds one with the type of `friends' the prodigal son found in the `far country,' but separates him from true friends.

Verse 5
A false witness shall not be unpunished; And he that uttereth lies shall not escape.

Ideal as these precepts are, it is to be feared that only in the government of God are they strictly honored.

Verse 6
Many will entreat the favor of the liberal man; And every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts.

Any Christian can receive a personal demonstration of how true this is by giving a liberal gift to some institution, political party or to some social welfare group. He will soon have his mailbox stuffed full of appeals from `friends' far and near.

Verse 7
All the brethren of the poor do hate him: How much more do his friends go far from him! He pursueth [them with] words, [but] they are gone.

Once more, as frequently in Proverbs, we have a factual statement of the way it is, and not the way it ought to be. See James 2:14-16.

Verse 8
He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul: He that keepeth understanding shall find good.

Tate observed that, "In the first line here, the New English Bible is more accurate here than the RSV."F5 Here are both renditions: "He who gets wisdom loves himself."F6 "To learn sense is true self-love."F7 Note also, that wisdom should not only be "gotten," it should also be "retained." Those who forsake the right way are guilty of violating this injunction.

Verse 9
A false witness shall not be unpunished; And he that uttereth lies shall perish.

This is almost a verbatim repetition of Prov. 19:5. See comment above.

Verse 10
Delicate living is not seemly for a fool; Much less for a servant to have rule over princes.

A remarkably effective illustration of what is taught here is that of Gideon's son Abimelech by a concubine. See Vol. 2, of our Series on Historical Books (Judges--Ruth), pp. 138-150. Another Biblical example of the same thing is that of Felix (Acts 23:27-33). "He exercised the authority of a prince, but he had the heart of a slave."

Verse 11
The discretion of a man maketh him slow to anger; And it is his glory to pass over a transgression.

Wise men never "carry a chip on their shoulder," never are "easily insulted," and will always ignore, whenever possible, any discourteous action against themselves. Again from James (James 1:19), the New Testament pattern is, "Swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath (anger)."

Verse 12
The king's wrath is as the roaring of a lion; But his favor is as dew upon the grass.

The thought here is parallel to Prov. 15:14-16, (p. 190, above). See our comments there.

Verse 13
A foolish son is the calamity of his father; And the contentions of a wife are a continual dropping.

"A foolish son is his father's ruin, and a quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping."F8 "A foolish son can bring a flood of troubles to his father; and a nagging wife is like water that won't stop dripping."F9

Verse 14
House and riches are an inheritance from fathers; But a prudent wife is from Jehovah.

Only God can give any man the kind of wife that the Lord gave to this writer. For more than sixty-two years, she has exhibited all of the elements of true Christianity with a loving devotion to her husband and constant service to God in the work of the Church. This opinion is shared by all who know Thelma Bradford Coffman. This writer feels that remarks of this kind are demanded by any intelligent comment on this verse. It would be wrong for this writer to comment on this verse without this testimony regarding what God did for him.

Verse 15
Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; And the idle soul shall suffer hunger.

"Laziness is the undoing of the worthless; idlers must starve."F10 No Biblical ethic stands any higher than "the work ethic." "If a man will not work," the New Testament declares, "neither shall he eat." (2 Thessalonians 3:10). The same commandment of the Decalogue that says, "Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy," also says, "Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work."

"Shout it, ye lords of creation;

And ring it, ye bells of the kirk;

The gospel of God and salvation

Is surely the gospel of work!

-- Henry Van Dyke

Verse 16
He that keepeth the commandment keepeth his soul; [But] he that is careless of his ways shall die.

"Keep God's laws, and you will live longer; if you ignore them, you will die."F11 The death here mentioned is certain, whether or not it may be referred to the cessation of one's mortality or to his consignment to eternal punishment in the Second Death, or to both.

Verse 17
He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto Jehovah, And his good deed will he pay him again.

Who should hesitate to lend unto God? Assistance and help that are provided for the poor are exactly that. The great distinction of Christianity is its love and concern for the poor; and no man is a genuine Christian who does not exhibit that quality of character.

Verse 18
Chasten thy son, seeing there is hope; And set not thy heart on his destruction.

This passage stresses the value of parental discipline of children while there is still time to direct the child in the right way. One of the great sorrows of 20th Century America is the widespread neglect of this duty, the results of which threaten the total ruin of our civilization. "Prov. 19:18b (the second line) may set a limit to discipline";F12 and in keeping with that interpretation, we have this: "But be careful not to flog him to death."F13 Even the New Testament strongly suggests that there is a limit beyond which discipline should not go. "Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath" (Ephesians 6:4). Harris, however interpreted Prov. 19:18b here thus; "Don't avoid chastening and thus bring about thy son's death."F14

Verse 19
A man of great wrath shall bear the penalty; For if thou deliver [him], thou must do it yet again.

"The sense of this proverb seems to be that the connection between unseemly anger and punishment is so invariable that any effort to save such a man from the disastrous consequences, which he brings upon himself by his anger, would do little good; because it wouldn't be long till he would again need deliverance."F15

Verse 20
Hear counsel, and receive instruction, That thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.

"There is a contrast here between two periods of a man's life, the earlier part which has been undisciplined, and that which is yet future, on behalf of which the appeal to Hear instruction is directed."F16

Verse 21
There are many devices in a man's heart; But the counsel of Jehovah, that shall stand.

In the run of a lifetime, a man hears all kinds of philosophies and all kinds of theories and teachings; but it is only the word of the Lord that shall stand the test of time and eternity. "Heaven and earth shall pass away," the Lord says, "But my word shall not pass away."

Verse 22
That which maketh a man to be desired is his kindness; And a poor man is better than a liar.

This is the kind of proverb that sends the scholars seeking for some kind of `an emendation' or `various reading.' The two legs of this biped seem to have no connection whatever. This rendition attempts to pair two desirable things thus: "What is desirable in a person is loyalty, and it is better to be poor than a liar."F17 Another: "Mercy is a fruit to a man, and a poor man is better than a rich liar."F18

Verse 23
The fear of Jehovah [tendeth] to life; And he [that hath it] shall abide satisfied; He shall not be visited with evil.

The affirmation here is that "satisfaction" is found only in the fear and service of God. On the tomb of William Rockefeller, Tarrytown Cemetery, N.Y., there is a quotation from Augustine: "Our souls, O God, were made for Thee, and never shall they rest until they rest in Thee." No matter how eagerly men seek soul-satisfaction anywhere else, they shall never find it. Only in Jesus Christ is there to be found that abundant life that comes from God.

Verse 24
The sluggard burieth his hand in the dish, And will not so much as bring it to his mouth again.

We have here a classical example of hyperbole. Can anyone imagine a man so lazy that, when he is eating, he will not even lift his hand from the dish to his mouth? "The scene here is a meal and the example extremely comical."F19 Prov. 26:15 repeats this. This must be classified as a humorous proverb.

"When you strike an insolent fellow, a fool may learn a lesson; but when you admonish an intelligent man, it will add to his knowledge."F20 The contrast here is between a fool who does not learn unless he receives a blow, and the wise man who will heed a proper admonition. "Here we get a glimpse of the only language that a fool understands."F21

Verse 26
He that doeth violence to his father, and chaseth away his mother, Is a son that causeth shame and bringeth reproach.

It is sad indeed that there should ever be such a son; but in our society today, there are many such sons, large numbers of whom have even murdered their parents. The text here offers no explanation of how such things come about; but a large number of such reprobate children reflect the failure of their parents to discipline them. Parents who rear an undisciplined child rear an animal, not a normal human being, and are kindling the fires of their own private hell.

Verse 27
Cease, my son, to hear instruction [Only] to err from the words of knowledge.

"There are many deceivers in the world. They make it their business to clothe error with the appearance of truth, and to weaken and discourage those motives to holiness that are set before us in God's word. The exhortation here speaks to us as children, warning us to beware of their devices and insinuations."F22

Verse 28
A worthless witness mocketh at justice; And the mouth of the wicked swalloweth iniquity.

"The scene of the first clause here is a court of justice (Exo. 20:16; Lev. 5:1); and the second clause, from the parallelism, is to be so understood. The wicked witness inflicts injury by false statements; and the iniquity refers not to the harm done to his own soul, but to the legal rights of others."F23

Verse 29
Judgments are prepared for scoffers, And stripes for the back of fools.

"The judgments and `stripes' mentioned here do not refer to punishments meted out by a court of justice; but they always refer to the judgments of God, although inflicted by human instrumentality."F24 Regardless of the laws of men, it is God who condemns scoffers and also that class of wicked men called, invariably in Proverbs, `fools.'

Footnotes for Proverbs 19
1: The Anchor Bible (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1982).
2: Ibid.
3: The Revised Standard Version of the Bible.
4: George DeHoff's Commentary, Vol. III, p. 285.
5: Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1971), Vol. 5, p. 61.
6: The Revised Standard Version of the Bible.
7: The New English Bible.
8: The New International Version of the Bible.
9: The Easy-to-Read Version of the Bible (Fort Worth, Texas: World Bible Translation Center, 1992).
10: The New English Bible.
11: GND.
12: Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1971), op. cit., p. 62.
13: The New English Bible.
14: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 572.
15: Barnes' Notes on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, a 1987 reprint of the 1878 Edition), Proverbs, p. 56.
16: C. F. Keil, Keil-Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), Vol. 6b, p. 32.
17: The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.
18: The Greek Septuagint (LXX).
19: The Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, op. cit., p. 135.
20: The Anchor Bible (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1982).
21: The Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, op. cit., p. 135.
22: George Lawson's Commentary on Proverbs (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1980), p. 317.
23: International Critical Commentary, op. cit., p. 381.
24: Keil-Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament, op. cit., p. 38.

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 19". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  


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