1 “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived
thereby is not wise.” Wine is a mocker; or, scorner, the word (luts) being taken
up from the last chapter. The liquor is, as it were, personified, as doing what
men do under its influence. Thus inebriated persons scoff at what is holy,
reject reproof, ridicule all that is serious. Septuagint, Ἀκόλαστον οϊνος –
Akolaston oinos - Wine is an undisciplined thing; Vulgate, Luxuriosa res, vinum.
Strong drink is raging; a brawler, Revised Version. Shekar, σίκερα - sikera -
strong drink; intoxicant - (Luke 1:15), is most frequently employed of any
intoxicating drink not made from grapes, e.g. palm wine, mead, etc. The
inordinate use of this renders men noisy and boisterous, no longer masters
of themselves or restrained by the laws of morality or decency. Septuagint,
ὑβριστικὸν μέθη – hubristikon methae – Beer is a brawler; Drunkenness
is insolent. Whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise. No one who reels under
the influence of, is overpowered by, wine is wise (Isaiah 28:7). Septuagint,
“Every fool is involved in such.” Says a Latin adage —
“Ense cadunt multi, perimit sed crapula plures.”
“More are drowned in the wine cup than in the ocean,” say the Germans
(compare ch. 23:29-35). Drunkenness leads to frivolity, scoffing, profane and
senseless mirth. To be drunk with wine, as Paul points out (Ephesians 5:18),
is the opposite of being “filled with the Spirit” “Woe unto him that giveth
his neighbor drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken
also” (Habakkuk 2:15)
Wine the Mocker (v. 1)
Intemperance was not so common a vice in biblical times as it has become
more recently, nor did the light wines of the East exercise so deleterious an
effect as the strong drink that is manufactured in
CY – 2014) is seen to produce. Therefore all that is said in the Bible against the
evil of drunkenness applies with much-increased force to the aggravated
makes great promises. Strong drink is pleasant to the palate. The effect of
it on the nervous system is at first agreeably stimulating. In weakness and
weariness it seems to give comfortable relief. The associations connected
with it are made to be most attractive:
Ø It goes with genial companionship,
Ø it appears to favor the flow of good fellowship,
Ø in sickness it promises renewed strength;
Ø it offers consolation in sorrow;
Ø at festive seasons it pretends to heighten the joy and to take its
place as a cheering friend of man. (I had a female student in an
oral report in a health class one time say concerning sensuality,
that it increases the desire but hinders the performance. CY –
Moreover, all these attractive traits am aggravated with the
weak. The need of the stimulus is more keenly felt by such persons; the
early effects of it are more readily and pleasantly recognized; there is less
power of will and judgment to resist its alluring influence. (How many
high school, college and professional athletes have used it as a crutch
for their physical or mental toughness? – CY – 2014)
The danger that lurks in the cup is not seen at first, and the sparkling wine
looks as innocent as a divine nectar. The evil that it produces comes on by
slow and insidious stages. No one thinks of becoming a drunkard on the
first day of tasting intoxicating drink. Every victim of the terrible evil of
intemperance was once an innocent child, and, whether he began in youth
or in later years, every one who has gone to excess commenced with
moderate and apparently harmless quantities. Happily, the majority of those
who take a little are wise or strong enough not to abandon themselves to
the tyranny of drinking habits. But the difficulty is to determine beforehand
who will be able to stand and who will not have sufficient strength. Under
these circumstances, it is a daring piece of presumption for any one to be
quite sure that he will always be so wary as to keep out of the snare that
has been fatal to many of his brethren who once stood in exactly the same
tree and healthy position in which he is at present. It is far safer not to
tempt our own natures, and to guard ourselves against the mockery of
wine, by keeping from all use of the strong drink itself.
VICTIMS. It has no pity. It hounds its dupes on to destruction, and then it
laughs at their fate. When once it holds a miserable wretch it will never
willingly release him. Too late, he discovers that he is a slave, deceived by
what promised to be his best friend, and flung into a dungeon from which,
by his unaided powers, he can never effect an escape. There is a peculiar
mockery in this fate:
Ø The victim is disgraced and degraded.
Ø His very human nature is wretched, insulted, almost destroyed.
Ø His social position is lost;
Ø his business scattered to the winds;
Ø his family life broker up and made unutterably wretched;
Ø his soul destroyed.
This is the work of the wine that sparkles in the cup. We should allow no
quarter to so vile a deceiver.
Four Delusions of Strong Drink (v. 1)
That may be said to mock us which first professes to benefit us, and then
proceeds to injure and even to destroy us. This is what is done by strong
drink. First it cheers and brightens, puts a song into our mouth, makes life
seem enviable; then it weakens, confuses, deadens, ruins. How many of
the children of men has it deceived and betrayed! how many has it robbed of
Ø their virtue,
Ø their beauty,
Ø their strength,
Ø their resources,
Ø their peace,
Ø their reputation,
Ø their life, and
Ø their hope!
There are :
· FOUR DELUSIONS IN WHICH MEN INDULGE REGARDING IT.
Ø That it is necessary to health. In ordinary conditions it has been proved
to be wholly needless, if not positively injurious.
Ø That it is reliable as a source of pleasure. It is a fact that the craving
for intoxicants and pain killers continually increases, while the
pleasure derived therefrom continually declines.
Ø That it renders service in the time of heavy trial. Woe be unto him who
tries to drown his sorrow in the intoxicating cup! He is giving up the
true for the false, the elevating for the degrading, the life-bestowing
for the death-dealing consolation.
Ø That it is a feeble enemy that may be safely disregarded. Very many men
and women come into the world with a constitution which makes any
intoxicant a source of extreme peril to them; and many more find it to be
A FOE whose subtlety and strength require all their wisdom and power
to master. An underestimate of the force of this temptation accounts for
many a buried reputation, for many a lost spirit.
· THE CONCLUSION OF THE WISE.
Ø To avoid the use of it altogether, if possible; and thus to be quite safe
from its sting.
Ø To use it, when necessary, with the most rigorous carefulness (ch. 31:6;
I Timothy 5:23).
Ø To discourage those social usages in which much danger lies.
To act on the principle of Christian generosity (Romans 14:21).
2 “The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion: whoso provoketh him
to anger sinneth against his own soul.” The fear of a king is as the roaring
of a lion (see ch.19:12). The terror which a king causes when his anger is rising
is like the roar of a lion, which betokens danger. Septuagint, “The threat of a king
differeth not from the wrath of a lion.” Whoso provoketh him to anger
sinneth against his own soul; imperils his life, which he has no right wilfully
to jeopardize. ,Septuagint, “He who enrageth him” - i.e. he who having
aroused a king’s resentment does not avoid his presence, exposes himself
to certain death.
3 “It is an honor for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be
meddling.” It is an honor to a man to cease from strife; or better, as
Delitzsch and others, to remain far from strife. A prudent man will not
only abstain from causing quarrel, but will hold himself aloof from all
contention, and thus will have due care for his own honor and dignity.
How different is this from the modern code, which makes a man’s honor
consist in his readiness to avenge fancied injury at the risk of his own or his
neighbour’s life! Septuagint, “It is a glory to a man to hold himself aloof
from revilings.” Every fool will be meddling (see on ch. 17:14; 18:1).
Delitzsch, “Whoever is a fool showeth his teeth,” finds pleasure in
strife. Septuagint, “Every fool involves himself in such,” as in v. 1.
The Honor of Peace (v. 3)
The old world looked for glory in war; the Christian ideal — anticipated in
Old Testament teaching — is to recognize honor in peace. It is better to
keep peace than to be victorious in war, better to make peace than to win
battles. Consider the grounds of this higher view of conflict and its issues.
· THE HONOR OF PEACE MAY BE SEEN IN SELF-SUPPRESSION.
It is much more easy to give the reins to ill will and hasty
passion. Men find it harder to fight their own temper than to do battle with
alien foes. It is the same with nations when the spirit of war has maddened
them. Heedless of consequences to themselves, and blind to the rights of
their neighbors, they hurl themselves headlong into the horrors of battle.
But if men could learn to curb their own strong feelings, they would really
show more strength than by raging in unrestrained fury.
· THE HONOR OF PEACE MAY BE RECOGNIZED IN MAGNANIMITY.
It may be that we are in the right, and our foes unquestionably in the wrong.
Still, it is not essential that we should fight to the bitter end. We may forego
our right. It may be a generous and noble thing to suffer wrong without resisting
it. We cannot but see how much more harm is done in asserting just claims by
force than would result from silent submission after a dignified protest. Often the
more magnanimous conduct will result in the very end that would have been
sought through violent measures. For it is possible to appeal to the generous
instincts of opponents.
· THE HONOR OF PEACE MAY BE OBSERVED IN CHARITY.
We should ever remember that even those who behave to us as enemies are
still our brethren. We have their welfare to consider even while they may
be plotting evil against us. Christ prayed for His persecutors (Luke 23:34).
So did St. Stephen (Acts 7:60). Indeed, our Lord died fur His enemies.
He came to make an end of the fearful strife between man and
God. But while He did so, He suffered from the fray. The Peacemaker was
the victim of the passions of the rebellious. By suffering in meek dignity He
made peace. If the mind that was in Christ is found in us, we shall be the
earnest advocates of peace for the good of the very people who delight in
· THE HONOUR OF PEACE MAY BE RECOGNIZED IN HUMILITY.
The special form in which the recommendation of peace is
thrown is that of a cessation of strife. This implies a case in which there
has been warfare; but one of the parties refrains from prosecuting the
quarrel any further, although he has neither been worsted nor won the
victory. This means a change of policy. Now, it is particularly difficult to
effect such a change in the midst of a conflict. One’s motives are likely to
be suspected, and what is done from love of peace is likely to be set down
It takes humility thus to withdraw and sacrifice one’s pretensions. Having taken
a certain position we are tempted to hold it at all hazards from sheer pride. This is
especially true in the soul’s conflict with God. Here we are called upon to humble
ourselves enough to confess ourselves entirely in the wrong. When the “fearful striving”
has ceased there is honor in repentance and the new life of peace with God.
v. 3. — (See homily on ch. 29:11)
4 “The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he
beg in harvest, and have nothing.” The sluggard will not plough by reason
of the cold; propter frigus, Vulgate. But חֹרֶפ (choreph) denotes the time of
gathering — the autumn; so we would translate, “At the time of harvest the
sluggard ploughs not” — just when the ground is most easily and profitably
worked. “The weakness of the coulter and other parts of the plough requires
that advantage be taken, in all but the most friable soils, of the softening of the
surface by the winter or spring rains; so that the peasant, if industrious, has
to plough in the winter, though sluggards still shrink from its cold, and
have to beg in the harvest.” Therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have
nothing. So the Vulgate, Mendicabit ergo aestate, et non dabitur illi. But this
does not accurately represent the meaning of the clause. If ever the prosperous
are disposed to relieve the needy, it would be at the time when they have safely
garnered their produce; an appeal to their charity at such a moment would not
be made in vain. Rather the sentence signifies that the lazy man, having
neglected to have his land ploughed at the proper time, “when he asks (for
his fruits) at harvest time, there is nothing.” He puts off tilling his fields day
after day, or never looks to see if his laborers do their duty, and so his
land is not cultivated, and he has no crop to reap when autumn comes. “By
the street of By-and-by one arrives at the house of Never” (Spanish
proverb). Taking a different interpretation of the word choreph, the Septuagint
renders, “Being reproached, the sluggard is not ashamed, no more than he
who borrows corn in harvest.”
5 “Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding
will draw it out.” Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water. The thoughts
and purposes of a man are hidden in his breast like deep water (ch.18:4) in the
bosom of the earth, hard to fathom, hard to get. But a man of understanding
will draw it out. One who is intelligent and understands human nature penetrates
the secret, and, by judicious questions and remarks, (ἐξαντλήσει – exantlaesei –
draws out - Septuagint) the hidden thought.
Evils to be Avoided (vs. 1-5)
· SOME SPECIAL EVILS AND DANGERS.
Ø Drunkenness. (v. 1.) The spirit or demon of wine is spoken of as a
personal agent. It leads to frivolity, scoffing, profane and senseless mirth.
To be drunk with wine, as Paul points out (Ephesians 5:18), is the
opposite of being “filled with the Spirit.”
Ø The wrath of kings. (v. 2) In those times of absolute rule, the king
represented the uncontrollable arbitration of life and death. As in the case
of Adonijah, he who provoked the king’s wrath sinned against his own
soul. What, then, must the wrath of the eternal Sovereign be (Psalm
90:11)? To invoke the Divine judgment is a suicidal act.
Ø Contentiousness. (v. 3.) Quick-flaming anger is the mark of the
shallow and foolish heart. The conquest of anger by Christian meekness is
one of the chiefest of Christian graces, “Let it pass for a kind of
sheepishness to be meek,” says Archbishop Leighton; “it is a likeness to
him that was as a sheep before his shearers.”
Ø Idleness. (v. 4.) The idle man is unseasonable in his repose, and
equally unseasonable in his expectation. To know our time, our
opportunity in worldly matters, our day of grace in the affairs of the soul,
all depends on this (Romans 12:11; Ephesians 5:15-17).
· THE SAFEGUARD OF PRUDENCE. (v. 5.) The idea is that,
though the project which a man has formed may be difficult to fathom, the
prudent man will bring the secret to light. “There is nothing hidden that
shall not be made known.” (Luke 12:2)
Ø Every department of life has its principles and laws.
Ø These may be ascertained by observation and inquiry.
Ø In some sense or other, all knowledge is power; and that is the best sort
of knowledge which arms the mind with force against moral dangers,
and places it in constant relation to good.
6 “Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man
who can find?” Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness; chesed,
“kindness,” “mercy,” “liberality,” as in ch.19:22. Most men meet a man who is
gracious to them; i.e. it is common enough to meet a man who seems
benevolent and well disposed. Vulgate, “Many men are called merciful;”
Septuagint, “Man is a great thing, and a merciful man is a precious thing.”
The renderings of most modern commentators imply the statement that
love and mercy are common enough, at least in outward expression. The
Authorized Version pronounces that men are ready enough to parade and
boast of their liberality, like the hypocrites who were said proverbially to
sound a trumpet when they performed their almsdeeds (Matthew 6:2).
Commenting on the Greek rendering of the clause given above, St.
Chrysostom observes, “This is the true character of man to be merciful;
yea, rather the character of God to show mercy…Those who answer not to
this description, though they partake of mind, and are never so capable of
knowledge, the Scripture refuses to acknowledge them as men, but calls
them dogs, and horses, and serpents, and foxes, and wolves, and if there be
any animals more contemptible” (‘Hom. 4 in Phil.’ and ‘Hom. 13 in 1
performance is developed in the second clause. But a faithful man who
can find? The faithfulness intended is fidelity to promises, the practical
execution of the vaunted benevolence; this is rare indeed, so that a psalmist
could cry, “I said in my haste, All men are liars” (Psalm 116. 11; compare
7 “The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after
him.” The just man walketh in his integrity. It is better to connect
the two clauses together, and not to take the first as a separate sentence,
thus: “He who as a just man walketh in his integrity” — Blessed are his
children after him (compare ch.14:26). So the Septuagint and
Vulgate. The man of pure life, who religiously performs his duty towards
God and man, shall bring a blessing on his children who follow his good
example, both during his life and after his death. The temporal promise is
seen in Exodus 20:6; Deuteronomy 4:40; Psalm 112:2, etc.
Some see here an instance of utilitarianism; but it cannot be supposed that
the writer inculcates virtue for the sake of the worldly advantages
connected with it; rather he speaks from experience, and from a faithful
The Blessings of Goodness (vs. 6-7)
Here are brought out again, in proverbial brevity, the blessings which
belong to moral worth.
· THE DOUBTFUL VALUE OF SELF-PRAISE. “Most men will
proclaim every one his own goodness.”
Ø On the one hand, nothing is better than the approval of a man’s own
conscience. “Populus me sibilat, at mihi plaudo,” says the Roman writer.
Let a man have the commendation of his own conscience, and he can hear
the hisses of the people with very little concern. It has been in this spirit
that the very noblest things have been done by honorable and even heroic
Ø On the other hand, there is a vast amount of self-congratulation amongst
men which is nothing more or better than mere complacency. It is self-
flattery, and that is not beautiful, but ugly; it is not true, but false. And
such is the tendency in man to assure himself that he is right, even when
he is thoroughly and lamentably wrong, that we have to wait and to
inquire before we take men’s word about themselves. Between the heroic
spirit of a Luther, or a
satisfaction of some petty tyrant gloating over his tyranny, there is the
entire breadth of the moral world. It is well for us all to be able to do
without the honor that cometh from man only; it is well for us also to
recognize the truth that our own commendation, so far from being the
voice of God within us, may be nothing but the very unsightly crust of
a dangerous and even deadly complacency.
· THE EXCELLENCY OF FAITHFULNESS. Solomon seemed to find
fidelity a rare thing. “Who can find it?” he asked. With Christian truth sown
in so many hearts, we do not feel the lack of it as he did. We thank God
that in the home and the school, in the shop and the factory, in the pulpit
and the press, in all spheres of honorable activity, we find instances of a
solid and sound fidelity — men and women occupying their post and doing
their work with a loyalty to those whom they serve, which is fair indeed in
the sight both of heaven and of earth. There is abundance of unfaithfulness
also, it has to be owned and lamented; and this is sometimes found where it
is simply disgraceful — among those who wear the name of that Master
and Exemplar who was “faithful in all his house.” It is required of us, who
are all stewards, that we be found faithful (I Corinthians 4:2); and we
must not only expect to give account to our brother here, but to the Divine
Judge here after.
· THE WORTH OF GUIDING PRINCIPLES. “A just man walketh in
his integrity.” What fairer sight is there beneath the sun? A just or upright
man, a man who is:
Ø yielding to God that which is due to his Creator and his Redeemer, viz.
his heart and his life; who is:
Ø giving to his neighbors what is due to them; and who is:
Ø honoring himself as is his due; — this man is “walking” along the path
of life in his integrity, every step directed by righteous principles and
prompted by honorable impulses; his way is never crooked, but lies
straight on; it is continuously upward, and moves to noble heights of
virtue and wisdom and piety. Who would not be such as he is —
a man God owns as His son, and the angels of God as their brother,
and all his fellow men as their helper and their friend?
· THE CROWN OF HUMAN BLESSEDNESS. “His children are
blessed after him.” Then is a good man crowned with an honor and a joy
which no diadem, nor rank, nor office, nor emolument, can confer, when
his children are found “walking in the truth” (III John 1:4) of God, their
affections centered in that Divine Friend who will lead them in the path of
heavenly wisdom, their life governed by holy principles, themselves enriched
and encircled by a holy and beautiful character, their influence felt on every
hand for good — “a seed which the Lord hath blessed.” (Isaiah 61:9)
(I highly recommend Johnny Cash’s song My Children Walk in Truth
on the internet – CY – 2020)
My Children Walk in Truth
I prayed to feel more joy in my salvation
A selfish prayer I finally came to know
For the greatest joy while living comes
to me when I am giving, Giving children
bread of life and watch them grow
And my greatest joy is knowing that
my children walk in truth
And that they are giving you Lord of their fire
and strength of youth.
Yes, I have found the greatest joy of my salvation
Is knowing that my children walk in truth
It’s hard to feed someone else when you’re hungry
And don’t try to teach when you don’t understand.
No one will follow you if you don’t live it each day through
And a frightened child won’t hold a trembling hand.
And my greatest joy is knowing that my children
walk in truth.
And that they are giving you Lord of their fire
and strength of youth.
Yes, I have found the greatest joy of my salvation
Is knowing that my children walk in truth
8 “A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment scattereth away all
evil with his eyes.” A royal and right noble maxim. The king,
sitting on the tribunal and executing his judiciary office, sees through all
devices and pretences which cloak evil, and scatters them to the winds, as
the chaff flies before the winnowing fan. Nothing unrighteous can abide in
his presence (compare v. 26; ch. 16:10). See here an adumbration of the
characteristic of the Messiah, the great King whose “eyes behold, whose eyelids
try, the children of men” (Psalm 11:4): who is “of purer eyes than to behold evil”
(Habakkuk 1:13); who “with righteousness shall judge the poor and reprove
with equity for the meek of the earth: and shall smite the earth with the rod of
His mouth; and with the breath of His lips shall slay the wicked” (Isaiah 11:4;
Compare Matthew 3:12). Septuagint, “When the righteous king shall sit upon his
throne, nothing that is evil shall offer itself before his eyes.”
9 “Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from
my sin?” The question implies the answer, “No one.” This is expressed in
Job 14:4, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.” At
the dedication of the temple, Solomon enunciates this fact of man’s
corruption, “There is no man that sinneth not” (I Kings 8:46). The
prophet testifies, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is
desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). And John
warns, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth
is not in us” (I John 1:8). The heart is cleansed by self-examination and
repentance; but it is so easy to deceive one’s self in this matter, sins may
lurk undetected, motives may be overlooked, so that no one can rightly be
self-righteous, or conceited, or proud of his spiritual state. The “my sin” at
the end of the clause is rather possible than actual sin; and the expression
means that no one can pride himself on being secure from yielding to
temptation, however clean for a time his conscience may be. The verse,
therefore, offers a stern corrective of two grievous spiritual errors —
presumption and apathy.
Purity of Heart (v. 9)
A subject that stretches back and looks onward as far as the limits of
human history. But Jesus Christ has introduced into the world a power for
purity which is peculiar to His gospel.
there is an unspeakable offensiveness in any form of impurity —
selfishness, worldliness, covetousness, sensuality, whatever it may be. And
how much more hideous and intolerable must it be in the eyes of the Holy
One Himself (Habakkuk 1:13; Psalm 5:5)! This is one explanation of
choosing leprosy as a type and picture of sin, viz, its fearful loathsomeness
in the sight of God.
GOD. (See Psalm 50:16; 66:18; ch.15:29; 28:9; Isaiah 1:10-17; Matthew 5:8;
of, its corruption, and returns in simple penitence to God, then there is
mercy and admission. But sincere repentance is the only gateway by which
impurity can find its way to the
favor and the
conscious of guilt, has sought and found mercy of God in Jesus Christ, and
is “cleansed of its iniquity,” so that there is “a clean heart and a right spirit”
(Psalm 51:10) before God, all is not yet done that has to be accomplished.
What Christian man can say, “I have made my heart clean; I am pure from
my sin”? “If we [who are in Christ Jesus] say that we have no sin, we deceive
ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (I John 1:8). “In many things we offend all”
(James 3:2). We are washed, but we “need to wash our feet” (John 13:10).
There yet lingers within the heart of the humble and the pure that
which needs purification before they will be “holy as he [the Lord] is holy.”
(Leviticus 11:44). What are these cleansing forces which will best do this
much needed and most desirable work? Are they not:
Ø The avoidance of that which defiles; the deliberate turning away of the
eyes of the soul (so far as duty to others will allow) from all that stains
Ø Much fellowship with Jesus Christ the Holy One, and with His true
friends and followers?
Ø The earnest, determined pursuit of that which is noblest in man,
especially by the study of the worthiest lives?
Ø Prayer for the cleansing influences which come direct from the Holy
Spirit of God (Psalm 51:10; 139:23-24; II Thessalonians 2:17;
Universal Sinfulness (v. 9)
We must distinguish between the idea of universal sinfulness and that of
total depravity. We may hold that there is some gleam of goodness in a
human heart without maintaining its immaculate purity. It is possible to
believe that there are great varieties of character, many different degrees of
sin, and yet to see that the highest saint has his faults.
SINFULNESS. Who can say, “I have made my heart clean from all
imputations of guilt”?
Ø The best confess that they are sinful. Canonized by their admiring
brethren, they cast themselves down in humility and shame before
the holiness of God. No men have so deep a sense of the sinfulness
of their own hearts as those who live most near to God.
Ø The most skilful cannot excuse themselves. It is possible to formulate
specious pleas that will deceive unwary men; but we have to do with
the great Searcher of hearts (“all things are naked and opened unto
the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” Hebrews 4:13), before
whose piercing gaze all sophistries and pretences melt as the mists
before the sun.
Ø The deceitfulness of the heart blinds many to their own guilt. Men
naturally desire to defend themselves; they are excellent advocates of
themselves to themselves. The familiar sin is softened by habit. The
conventional sin is condoned by custom.
Ø False standards of holiness confuse men’s estimate of their own
sinfulness. Some people seem to take a feeling of placidity as an
assurance of inward perfection, as though not to be conscious of
strife were to be assured of peace with God. But it is possible to
slumber under the influence of spiritual narcotics. A keener conscience
might rouse a new, unlooked for sense of sin and shame. It is thought
that there is no shortcoming simply because the surrounding mists hide
the far off goal. Or it may be that negative correctness is mistaken for a
satisfactory condition, while many positive active duties are left undone.
Perhaps the soul that thinks its aspiration after purity satisfied is wanting
in charity, or in the very act of claiming sinlessness it may be puffed up
with pride. The most dangerous delusion is that which denies the
ownership of guilt because sin is supposed to be relegated to bodily
infirmity, while the true self is spotless. This is a most deadly snare
of the devil.
HAS COMMITTED. Who can say, “I have purged my own conscience,
cleansed my own heart, cleared off my record of guilt?”
Ø It is impossible to undo sins. Deeds are irrevocable. What has been
committed is stereotyped in the awful book of the changeless past.
What I have written, spoken, done — I have written, spoken, done.
Ø It is impossible to compensate for past sins by future service. The
future service is all owing; at our best we are “unprofitable servants” —
there is no margin of profit — for “we have only done that which it
was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10)
Ø It is impossible to atone for our sins by any sacrifice. The hardest
penance can be of no value with God. Its only use could be in self-
discipline. For God is not pleased with the sufferings of His children.
We can offer Him nothing; for “the cattle on a thousand hills” are His.
Ø It is impossible to change our own inner sinfulness by ourselves. We
cannot create clean hearts in our own breasts. We cannot kill our own
love of sin.
Ø It is only possible for sin to be cleansed in the blood of Christ. “There is
a fountain opened for all uncleanness” The admission of guilt, the
repentance that turns from the old sin and seeks forgiveness, the
renunciation of all claims but that of the grace of God in Christ, —
these things open the door to the true way of making the heart clean,
both in pardon and in purification.
10 “Divers weights, and divers measures, both of them are alike abomination
to the LORD.” Divers weights, and divers measures; literally, stone and
stone, ephah and ephah. The stones were used for weighing: dishonest
traders kept them of different weights, and also measures of different
capacities, substituting one for the other in order to defraud unwary
customers. The Septuagint makes this plain by rendering, “A weight great
and small, and measures double” (see on ch. 11:1 and 16:11; and
compare v. 23). The ephah was a dry measure, being one-tenth of the
homer, and occupying the same position in solids as the bath did in liquids.
It equalled about three pecks of our measure. Both of them are alike
abomination to the Lord (ch.17:15; compare Leviticus 19:36;
Deuteronomy 25:13-16); Septuagint, “Are impure before the Lord,
even both of them, and he who doeth them.” Pseudo-Bernard (‘De Pass.
Dom.,’ 17.), applying the passage mystically, teaches that a man may be
said to keep a double measure, who, being conscious of his own evil
character, endeavours to appear righteous to others; who, as he puts it,
“Suo judicio terrae proximus est, et aliis cupit elevatus videri.” Others,
connecting this verse in thought with the preceding, see in it a warning
against judging a neighbor by a standard which we do not apply to
ourselves. The Septuagint Version arranges the matter from v. 10
onwards differently from the Hebrew, omitting vs. 14-19, and placing
vs. 10-13 after v. 22.
v. 10. — (See homily on ch. 16:11)
11 “Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure,
and whether it be right.” Even a child is known (maketh himself known)
by his doings. (For “even” (gam), see on ch.17:26.) A child is open,
simple, and straightforward in his actions; he has not the reserves and
concealments which men practice, so you see by his conduct what his real
character and disposition are. The habits of a life are learned in early age.
The boy is father of the man. Delitzsch quotes the German proverbs,
“What means to become a hook bends itself early,” and “What means to
become a thorn sharpens itself early;” and the Aramaean, “That which will
become a gourd shows itself in the bud:” Whether his work be pure
(“clean,” as v. 9 and ch. 16:2), and whether it be right. His
conduct will show thus much, and will help one to prognosticate the
future. Septuagint (according to the
(ἐπιήδευμασιν – epitaedeumasin ) a young man will be fettered in
company with a holy man, and his way will be straight,” which seems
to mean that a good man will restrain the reckless doings of a giddy youth,
and will lead him into better courses.
The Frailty of Mankind (vs. 6-11)
· THE RARITY OF TRUE FRIENDSHIP. (v. 6.) Many are ready to
promise, few willing to perform. Many eager to say, “Lord, Lord!”
comparatively few to do the will of the Father in heaven. There is no want
of good notions in the world; but, according to the Italian proverb, many
are so good that they are good for nothing. The spirit may be willing, the
flesh is weak. Inclination to good needs to be fortified by faith in God.
· THE JUST AND GOOD MAN. (v. 7.) We cannot but feel that he is
an ideal character. Poets and preachers have delighted to describe him,
have surrounded him with a halo, depicted the safety and blessedness of his
life. But how seldom does he appear on the actual scene! Our being is a
struggle and a series of failures. The one thing needful is to have a lofty
ideal before us, and never to despair of approaching a little nearer to it with
every right effort.
· THE IMPARTIAL JUDGE. (v. 8.) The earthly judge upon his seat
reminds us of the mixed state of human nature — of the need of a process
of sifting, trial, purification, ever going on. Judgment is an ever-present
fact, a constant process. We are being tried, in a sense, every day, and
“must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (II Corinthians 5:9)
Let us “labor that we may be accepted of Him.” (ibid. v. 10)
· THE CLEAN CONSCIENCE. (v. 9.) This pointed question
silences our boasting, and checks the disposition to excuse ourselves. By
unwise comparison with others we may seem to stand well; but in the light
of his own mere standard of right and duty, who is not self-condemned? “If
we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in
us” (1 John 1:8- 9).
· EQUITABLE CONDUCT. (v. 10.) How common are the tricks and
evasions of trade! And there is something more in this than mere desire for
gain. The general experience of the world is so strong against dishonesty,
as seen in common proverbs, as “bad policy,” that we must look to a
deeper cause of its existence, viz. the perversity of man’s heart.
· EARLY SYMPTOMS OF CHARACTER. (v. 11) Tendencies of
evil and (never let us omit to acknowledge) tendencies of good are seen
very early in children. The Germans have a quaint proverb, “What a thorn
will become may easily be guessed.” How much depends on Christian
culture; for “as the twig is bent, so is the tree inclined.”
A Child and His Doings (v. 11)
own account, Childhood is worthy of study.
Ø A child has his character. Very early in life varieties of disposition
may be seen in the several members of a young family. One is hot-
tempered, another patient; one demonstrative, another reserved;
one energetic, another inactive. Moral distinctions are painfully and
glaringly apparent. As childhood advances these varieties of disposition
merge in deeper differences of character. Though the character is supple
and mobile, it is nevertheless real. There are good and bad children —
children who are pure, true, honest, kind; and children who are marked
with the reverse of these qualities.
Ø A child is responsible for his deeds. Unless he is crushed by tyranny,
within the scope of a reasonable child-liberty he has room in which to
play his small part on the stage of life. He must not be brought up with
the notion that he is an irresponsible agent because he is young and
weak. Conscience needs to be enlightened, trained, and strengthened
in early days.
Ø A child’s character is revealed in his deeds. The character may be slight
and feeble; and the deeds may be simple and insignificant. Yet even in
the nursery cause and effect are at work; fruits reveal the nature even of
saplings. Even children cannot be judged by outward appearance. With
them innocent looks may cover sinful thoughts. Children also may
deceive themselves, or make false pretences, though we do not see the
hardened hypocrisy of the world in the simpler deception of the nursery.
Still, it is to the conduct of children that we must look for indications of
their true characters.
doings, the inference is that much more may a man be known in a similar
Ø Character ripens with years. If it begins to appear in childhood, it
will be much more vigorous in manhood. There is something dolefully
prophetic in the vices of infancy. Though often laughed at by foolish
observers, these vices are the early sprouts of terrible evils that will
increase with growing strength and enlarging opportunities. The more
clearly we are able to detect differences of character even in childhood,
the more certain is it that similar differences are aggravated in manhood.
Ø Responsibility grows with opportunity. The deeds of children are to be
regarded as characteristic — as either culpable or praiseworthy according
to their moral tone. How much more must this be the case with grown
men and women, who know more, have larger powers, and suffer from
fewer restrictions! If the child who has continual restraint upon him, and
who lives under perpetual tutelage, yet manifests characteristic conduct,
the free man cannot escape from the responsibility of his doings.
Ø Conduct is always a sure sign of character. It is so even with children
who know little, and who are constantly hampered by superior authority.
It must be so with double certainty in the case of adults. It is vain, indeed,
for men and women to pretend that the index hand does not point truly.
In the freedom of adult age there is no excuse to be urged against the
Inference that our deeds are the fruits of our character. Therefore,
if the conduct is evil, the heart needs to be renewed.
Childhood: A Transparency, A prophecy, A Study (v. 11)
It is not apparent why Solomon says, “Even a child is known by his doings.” It is a
familiar fact, at which we may glance, and which seems to be the main thought of
· THE TRANSPARENCY OF CHILDHOOD. Some men are full of guile
and of hypocrisy; they have acquired the power of concealing their real
thought and feeling beneath their exterior, and you are never quite sure
what they mean. You dare not trust them; for their words, or their
demeanor, or their present action may entirely belie them. Not so the
child. He means what he says. If he does not love you, he will not affect
any liking for you. You will soon find from his behavior what he thinks
about men and things, about the studies in which he is occupied, about the
service in which you want him to engage. And whether he is living a pure
and faithful life, whether he is obedient and studious, or whether he is
obstinate and idle, you will very soon discover if you try. It requires but
very little penetration to read a child’s spirit, to know a child’s character.
but the truth which is not so much on the surface respecting the knowledge
we have of or from the child relates to:
· THE PROPHECY OF CHILDHOOD. “Even a child” will give some
idea of the man into whom he will one day grow. “The child is father to the
man.” (William Wordsworth) In him are the germs of the nobility or the
meanness, the courage or the cowardice, the generosity or the selfishness,
the studiousness or the carelessness, the power or the weakness, that is to
be witnessed later on. He that has eyes to see may read in the child before
him the future — physical, mental, moral — that will be silently but
certainly developed. Hence we may regard:
· CHILDHOOD AS A STUDY. If men have found an insect, or a
flower, or a seed, or a strum well worth their study, how much more is the
little child! For, on the one hand, ignorant assumption may spoil a life. To
conclude hastily, and therefore falsely, respecting the temper, the tastes,
the capacities, the inclinations, the responsibilities, the culpability
(responsibility for wrong-doing) or praiseworthiness of the child, and to
act accordingly, may lead down into error and unbelief and despair the
spirit that might, by other means, have been led into the light of truth
and the love of God. And, on the other hand, a conscientious and just
conclusion on these most important characteristics of childhood may
make a life, may save unimaginable misery, may result in an early,
instead of a late, unfolding of power and beauty, may make all the
difference in the history of a human soul. And only the Father of spirits
can tell what that difference is.
12 “The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made
even both of them.” This apothegm, which seems to be nothing but a trite
truism, brings to notice many important consequences. First, there is the
result noted in Psalm 94:9, “He that planted the ear, shall he not hear?
He that formed the eye, shall he not see?” Hence we learn the sleepless
providence of God. So ‘Pirke Aboth,’ “Know that which is above thee, an
eye that seeth all, an ear that heareth all.” We learn also that all things are
directed and overruled by God (compare ch.15:3; 16:4). Then
there is the thought that these powers of ours, BEING THE GIFT OF
GOD should be used piously and in God’s service. “Mine ears hast thou
opened… Lo, I come… I delight to do thy will, O my God” (Psalm
40:6-8). The eye should be blind, the ear deaf, to all that might defile or
excite to evil (see Isaiah 33:15). But it is the Lord alone that enables
the spiritual organs to receive the wondrous things of God’s Law; they
must be educated by grace to enable them to perform their proper
functions. “God hath given us eyes,” says St. Chrysostom (‘Homily 22 in
I Corinthians’), “not that we may look wantonly, but that, admiring His
handiwork, we may worship the Creator. And that this is the use of our
eyes is evident from the things which are seen. For the luster of the sun and
of the sky we see from an immeasurable distances, but a woman’s beauty
one cannot discern so far off. Seest thou that for this end our eye was
chiefly given? Again, He made the ear, that we should entertain not
blasphemous words, but saving doctrines. Wherefore you see, when it
receives anything dissonant, both our soul shudders and our very body
also. And if we hear anything cruel or merciless, again our flesh creeps; but
if anything decorous and kind, we even exult and rejoice.” “He that hath
ears to hear, let him hear” (Mark 4:9). Septuagint, “The ear heareth and
the eye seeth, and both are the works of the Lord.
God our Maker (v. 12)
Truly we are “wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) and “the hand that made us
is Divine.” The human ear and eye are:
able, by means of this small apparatus included in “the ear,” to detect such
a variety of notes, to distinguish sounds from one another so readily,
through so many years, to perceive the faintest whisper in the trees, and to
enjoy the roll of the reverberating thunder (I can still distinguish voices
of people that I have not seen in years or that are deceased – CY – 2014);
that we should be able, by means of two small globes in our face, to see
things as minute as a bud or a dewdrop and as mighty as a mountain or
as the “great wide sea,” to detect that which is dangerous and to gaze
with delight and even rapture on the beauties and glories of the world
(for example see the photo below
in October, 2013 – CY); — these are very striking instances of the
wonderful skill and power of our Creator.
knowledge, of power, of pure gladness of heart, of mental and moral
cultivation and growth, has not God given to us in sculpturing for us “the
hearing ear,” in fashioning for us “the seeing eye”?
the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see?”
(Psalm 94:9). The wonderful Worker who has supplied us, His finite
and feeble creatures, with such power of hearing and of vision, with such
sources of knowledge, — HOW GREAT, HOW PERFECT, HOW
BOUNDLESS, MUST BE HIS OWN DIVINE PERCEPTION! How
certainly must He hear the whisper we would fain make inaudible to Him!
How inevitably must He see the action we would gladly hide from His
searching sight! HOW ABSOLUTE MUST GOD’S KNOWLEDGE BE,
both of our outward life and of the inner workings of our soul!
of learning of God, of knowing, that we may do His holy will. Our
eye not only conveys to us the sight of the beautiful, the richly stored,
the glorious world that God has made for us, but it enables us to read “the
book He has written for our learning,” wherein we can find all that we need
to know of His nature, His character, and His will. And our ear not only
conveys to us the melodies of the outer world, but it places within the
reach of our spirit the Divine truths which are uttered in our presence.
These, as they come from the lips of parent, or teacher, or pastor, can
“make us wise unto salvation,” can fill our hearts with holy purpose, with
true and pure emotion, with abiding peace. And we may add that the
speaking lips are also that which “the Lord hath made;” and what an
opportunity these give us of uttering His truth, of helping His children, of
furthering His cause and kingdom! Such excellent service can our bodily
organs render to our immortal spirit; and so may they be impressed into the
holier service of their Divine Author.
13 “Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and
thou shalt be satisfied with bread.” Love not sleep lest thou come to poverty
(see ch.6:9, etc.). The fate of the sluggard is handled again in ch.23:21,
as often before; e.g. ch.12:11; 19:15. The Septuagint, taking שֵׁנָה (shenah), “sleep,”
as perhaps connected with the verb שְׁנָה (shanah), translate, “Love not to rail, that
thou be not exalted (ἵνα μὴ ἐξαρωῇς – hina mae exarthaes – you should be
removed) i.e. probably, “Do not calumniate others in order to raise
yourself;” others translate, “lest thou be cut off.” Open thine eyes, and thou
shalt be satisfied with bread. These words seem to connect this clause with
v. 12. God gives the faculty, but man must make due use thereof. The gnomist
urges, “Do not slumber at your post, or sit downwardly waiting; but be up
and doing, be wakeful and diligent, and then you shall prosper.”
14 “It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer: but when he is gone his
way, then he boasteth.” It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer. The
purchaser depreciates the goods which he wants, in order to lower the price
demanded — a practice as common now as in old time. “I don’t want it, I
don’t want it,” says the Spanish friar; “but drop it into my hood.” The
Scotch say, “He that lacks (disparages) my mare would buy my mare”.
But when he is gone his way, then he boasteth. When he has
completed his purchase and obtained the goods at his own price, he boasts
how he has tricked the seller. The Septuagint omits vs. 14-19.
The Buyer (v. 14)
· THE CONDUCT OF THE BUYER CALLS FOR CONSIDERATION.
It is usual to discuss questions of trade morality chiefly in regard to the
conduct of the man who sells. Deception, adulteration, dishonest work, the
grinding of employes, etc., are denounced by indignant onlookers. But the
conduct of the customer is less severely handled. Yet there are many
reasons why it should not be overlooked. All are not sellers, but everybody
buys. Therefore when commercial morality is discussed in regard to
buying, the subject does not only apply to traders, it concerns all people.
Moreover, if men cheat and do wrong in their business when selling,
though there is no fair excuse for their conduct, it may be urged that they
are driven to extremes by the pressure of competition and by the difficulty
of earning a livelihood. But when many people are making ordinary
purchases they are not in the same position and under the same temptation.
Traders, of course, are buyers in the way of business. But people of
affluent circumstances are also buyers without any consideration of
business exigencies, but solely for their own convenience. If such people
do not behave honorably they are doubly guilty.
· THE BUYER IS SUBJECT TO MORAL OBLIGATIONS.
Ø He owes justice to the seller. He has no right to squeeze the unfortunate
trader’s profit by the pressure of undue influence, threatening to withdraw
his custom or to injure the connection among his friends, taking advantage
of the fact that the seller is in want of money, etc. It is his duty to pay a fair
price, even though by the stress of circumstances he might force a sale at a
Ø He owes truth to the seller. He may misrepresent the absolute value of
his purchase, perhaps knowing more of its true worth than the seller, but
trying to deceive him. Thus the skilled connoisseur may take an unfair
advantage of the ignorance of the trader from whom he buys some rare
article of vertu (art). Or a person may pretend not to want what he secretly
covets most eagerly. Such a device is false and unworthy of a Christian
Ø He owes humanity to the seller. It is a gross abuse of trade to make it a
condition of warfare. A man is not necessarily one’s enemy because one
does business with him. The unfortunate person who must needs sell at a
great loss rather than not sell at all, is not the legitimate prey of the first
greedy customer who is able to pounce upon him. The curse of trade is
hard, cruel, brutal selfishness. Christianity teaches us to regard the man
with whom one does business as a brother. The buyer should learn to treat
the seller as he desires to he treated in turn, and so to fulfill the law of
Christ. The same principle requires kindliness of manner.
· THE OBLIGATIONS OF THE BUYER ARE COMMONLY
NEGLECTED. The causes of this negligence are manifold; e.g.:
Ø Inconsiderateness. Often there is no intention of doing an injustice. The
buyer simply forgets the rights of the seller. This inconsiderateness does
harm in various ways. Careless customers give needless trouble to shop
people. Some order for view more goods than they need to effect a
purchase; some persist in shopping late in the evening, etc.
Ø Selfishness. The chief cause of the evil is a sole regard for self. People
who are reasonable and kind in their own homes will manifest the most
tyrannical spirit, the most cynical selfishness, in their shopping. When the
veneer of social habits is broken this ugly vice is more visible in the most
polished society than among rougher people.
Ø Sinfulness. The evil heart is seen here as elsewhere. For the buyer to
force injustice and to cheat the seller is for him to reveal himself as a slave
of sin as truly as if he broke out in wanton violence and open robbery.
15 “There is gold, and a multitude of rubies: but the lips of knowledge
are a precious jewel.” There is gold, and a multitude of rubies. For peninim,
which is rendered “rubies,” “pearls,” or “coral,” see on ch. 3:15.
There is gold which is precious, and there is abundance of pearls which are
still more valuable. But the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel, and
worth more than all. We had the expression, “lips of knowledge,” in
ch.14:7; it means lips that utter wisdom. Keli, often translated
“jewel” in the Authorized Version, also bears the meaning of “vessel,”
“utensil.” So here the Vulgate, vas pretiosum; and the wise man’s lips are
called a vessel because they contain and distribute the wisdom that is
within. (On the excellence and value of wisdom, see ch. 3:14-18; 8:11).
Connecting this with the preceding verse, we are led to the thought of
buying, and the Lord’s parable of the merchant seeking goodly pearls, and
bartering all his wealth to gain possession of a worthy jewel (Matthew 13:45-46).
16 “Take his garment that is surety for a stranger: and take a pledge of
him for a strange woman.” Take his garment that is surety for a stranger.
The maxim is repeated in ch.27:13; and warnings against suretyship are
found in ch. 6:1-3; 11:15; 17:18; 22:26-27. The second
portion of the clause is translated also, “For he is surety for another.” If a
man is so weak and foolish as to become security for any one, and is unable
to make good his engaged payment, let him lose his garment which the
creditor would seize; his imprudence must bring its own punishment. And
take a pledge of him for a strange woman. The Authorized Version
probably adopts this rendering in conformity with ch. 27:13,
where it occurs in the text, as here in the margin (the Keri). But the Khetib
has, “for strangers,” which seems to be the original reading; and the first
words ought to be translated, “hold him in pledge;” i.e. seize his person for
the sake of the strangers for whom he has stood security, so as not to
suffer loss from them. The Law endeavored to secure lending to needy
brethren without interest (see Psalm 15:5; Ezekiel 18:8, 13; 22:12):
but it allowed the creditor to secure himself by taking pledges of
his debtor, while it regulated this system so as to obviate most of its
severity and oppressiveness (see the restrictions in Exodus 22:26-27;
Deuteronomy 24:6, 12-13). Where the debtor possessed nothing
which he could pledge, he gave the personal security of a friend. This was
a very formal proceeding. The surety gave his hand both to the debtor and
to the creditor before an assembly legally convened, he deposited a pledge,
and, in accordance with this twofold promise, was regarded by the creditor
in just the same light as the debtor himself, and treated accordingly. If the
debtor, or in his place the surety, was unable to pay the debt when it fell
due, he was entirely at the mercy of the creditor. The authorities troubled
themselves but little about these relations, and the law, so far as it is
preserved to us, gave no directions in the matter. We see, however, from
many allusions and narratives, what harsh forms these relations actually
took, especially in later times, when the ancient national brotherly love
which the Law presupposed was more and more dying out. The creditor
could not only forcibly appropriate all the movable, but also the fixed
property, including the hereditary estate (this at least till its redemption in
the year of jubilee), nay, he could even (if he could find nothing else of
value) carry off as a prisoner the body of his debtor, or of his wife and
child, to employ them in his service, though this could only be done for a
17 “Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall
be filled with gravel.” Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; Revised Version,
bread of falsehood; i.e. bread gained without labor, or by unrighteous means
(compare ch.10:2). This is agreeable because it is easily won, and
has the relish of forbidden fruit. “Wickedness is sweet in his mouth”
(Job 20:12). But afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel. He
will find in his “bread” no nourishment, but rather discomfort and positive
injury (compare Ibid. v.14). The expression, “to eat gravel,” is intimated
in Lamentations 3:16, “He hath broken my teeth with gravel stones;” it
implies grievous disappointment and unprofitableness. See here a warning
against evil pleasures.
v. 17 (See homily on ch. 21:6-8.)
18 “Every purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice
make war.” Every purpose is established by counsel (compare ch. 15:22,
where see note). The Talmud says, “Even the most prudent of men needs
friends’ counsels;” and none but the most conceited would deem himself
superior to advice, or would fail to allow that, as the Vulgate puts it,
cogitationes consillis roborantur. This is true in all relations of life, in great
and small matters alike, in peace, and, as our moralist adds, in war.
With good advice make war; Vulgate, Gubernaculis tractanda sunt bella;
Revised Version, By wise guidance make thou war. The word here used is
takebuloth, for which see note, ch.1:5. It is a maritime metaphor, rightly
retained by the Vulgate, and might be rendered “pilotings,” “steerings.”
War is a necessary evil, but it must be undertaken prudently and with a
due consideration of circumstances, means, etc. Our Lord illustrates the
necessity of due circumspection in following Him by the case of a threatened
conflict between two contending kings (Luke 14:31-32). Grotius quotes the
Γνῶμαι πλέον κρατοῦσιν η} σθένος χερῶν.
Gnomai pleon kratousin ae sthinos cheron
“Titan strength of hands availeth counsel more.”
To which we may add:
Βουλῆς γὰρ ὀρθῆς οὐδὲν ἀσφαλέστερον.
Boulaes gar orthaes ouden asphalesteron.
“Good counsel is the safest thing of all.”
(Compare ch.24:6, where the hemistich is re-echoed.)
19 “He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore
meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.” He that goeth about
as a talebearer revealeth secrets. Almost the same proverb occurs in ch.11:13.
The gadding gossiper is sure to let out any secret entrusted to him; therefore,
it is implied, be careful in what you say to him. Meddle not with him that
flattereth with his lips; rather, that openeth wide his lips — that cannot
keep his mouth shut, a babbler, as ch.13:3 (where see note). The
Vulgate erroneously makes one sentence of the verse, “With him who
reveals secrets, and walketh deceitfully, and openeth wide his lips, have no
dealings.” Talmud, “When I utter a word, it hath dominion over me; but
when I utter it not, I have dominion over it.” Says the Persian poet, “The
silent man hath his shoulders covered with the garment of security.”
Xenocrates used to say that he sometimes was “sorry for having spoken,
never for having kept silence”.
GOD IS THE SOURCE OF ALL GOOD (v. 12)
1. Of all bodily good. The eye, the ear, with all their wondrous mechanism,
with all their rich instrumentality of enjoyment, are from Him.
2. Of all spiritual faculty and endowment, the analogues of the former, and
“every good and perfect gift” (James 1:16). The new heart and the right
mind, should, above all, be recognized as His gifts.
3. In domestic and in public life. Good counsels of Divine wisdom, and
willing obedience of subjects to them, are the conditions of the weal of the
state; and it may be that these are designed by the preacher under the
figures of the eye and the ear.
Virtues Indispensable to Happiness (vs. 13-19)
not work, neither let him eat” (II Thessalonians 3:10); for which the seeing
eye and hearing ear are needed. Viewed in one light, of imagination, labor
may appear as a curse; for it thwarts our natural indolence, our love of ease,
and our sentimental views in general. But viewed in the light of actual
experience, the law of labor is one of the most Divine blessings of our
Ø Craft and trickiness exposed. (vs. 14, 17) Here the cunning tricks of
trade are struck; in particular the arts of disparagement, by which the
buyer unjustly cheapens the goods he desires to invest in. The peculiar
manner in which trade is still conducted in the East, the absence of
fixed prices, readily admits of this species of unfairness. But the
rebuke is general.
Ø The deceptiveness of sinful pleasures. (v. 17.) There is, no doubt, a
certain pleasure in dishonesty, otherwise it would not be so commonly
practiced in the very teeth of self-interest. There is a peculiar delight in
the exercise of skill which outwits others. But this is only while the
conscience sleeps. When it awakes, unrest and trouble begin. The
stolen gold burns in the pocket;
on the lips. (Deuteronomy 32:32)
Ø Sense is compared to the most precious things. What in the affairs of
life is comparable to judgment? (“What shall if profit a man if he
gain the whole world and lose his soul?” - Mark 8:36) Yet compared
only to be contrasted. As the common saying runs, “There is nothing
so uncommon as common sense.” The taste for material objects of price
may be termed universal and vulgar; that for spiritual qualities is
select and refined
Ø Good sense is shown caution and avoidance of undue responsibility.
This has been before emphasized (ch. 6:1-5; 11:15; 17:18). We
have enough to do to answer for ourselves.
Ø Prudence in war. There are justifiable wars; but even these may be
carried on with folly, reckless disregard of human life, etc. “The
beginning, middle, and end, O Lord, turn to the best account!”
was the prayer of a prudent and pious general.
verse may be taken in both these senses. In all thoughtless gossip about
others there is something of the malicious and slanderous spirit; there is
danger in it. As to the listener, rather let him listen to those who point out
his faults than to those who flatter.
20 “Whoso curseth his father or his mother, his lamp shall be put out in
obscure darkness.” This is an enforcement of the fifth commandment, by
denouncing the punishment which the moral government of God shall
exact from THE UNNATURAL CHILD! The legal penalty may be seen
(Exodus 21:17; Leviticus 20:9); but this was probably seldom or never carried
into execution (compare Matthew 15:4; Mark 7:10). (What kind of moral
climate would we have today if this was carried out? “We are not that
barbaric” we say as we saunter to hell! – CY – 2014) His lamp shall
be put out in obscure (THE BLACKEST) darkness (compare ch. 13:9).
The expression is peculiar; it is literally, according to the Khetib, In the
apple of the eye of darkness, as in ch. 7:9; i.e. in the very center
of darkness; he will find himself surrounded on all sides by MIDNIGHT
DARKNESS without escape, with no hope of Divine protection. “Lamp” is a
metaphor applied to the bodily and the spiritual life, to happiness and
prosperity, to a man’s fame and reputation, to a man’s posterity; and all
these senses may be involved in the denunciation of the disobedient and
stubborn child. He shall suffer in body and soul, in character, in fortune, in
his children. His fate is the exact counterpart of the blessing promised in
the Law. Septuagint, “The lamp of him that revileth father and mother shall
be extinguished, and the pupils of his eyes shall behold darkness.” Talmud,
“Whosoever abandons his parents means his body to become the prey of
scorpions.” One of the evil generations denounced by Agur (ch.30:11)
is that which curseth parents.
21 “An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning; but the end
thereof shall not be blessed. An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the
beginning — or, which in the beginning, is obtained in haste — but the end
thereof shall not be blessed; or, its end shall not be blessed. The Khetib gives
מְבֹהֶלֶת, which (compare Zechariah 11:8) may mean “detested,” but this
gives no sense; it is better, with the Keri, to replace kheth with he, and read
מְבֹהֶלֶת (meboheleth), “hastened,” “hastily acquired” (see ch.13:11, Septuagint).
The maxim, taken in connection with the preceding verse, may apply to a bad
son who thinks his parents live too long, and by violence robs them of their
possessions; or to one who, like the prodigal in the parable, demands prematurely
his portion of the paternal goods. But it may also be taken generally as denouncing
the fate of those who make haste to be rich, being unscrupulous as to the means
by which they gain wealth (see on ch. 23:11; 28:20, 22). A Greek gnome says
Οὐδεὶς ἐπλούτησεν ταχέως δίκαιος ὤν.
Oudeis eploutaesen tacheos dikaios on
“No righteous man e’er grew rich suddenly.”
22 “Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the LORD, and He shall
save thee.” Say not thou, I will recompense evil (ch.24:29). The jus talonis
(law of retribution) is the natural feeling of man, to do to others as they have
done unto you, to requite evil with evil. But the moralist teaches a better
lesson, urging men not to study revenge, and approaching nearer to
Christ’s injunction, which gives the law of charity, “Whatsoever ye would
(οπσα α}ν θέλητε – hosa an thelaete – whatever ye would) that men should
do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12). The Christian rule is expounded
fully by Paul (Romans 12:14, 17, 19). It was not unknown to the Jews; for we read
in Tobit 4:15, “Do that to no man which thou hatest;” and Hillel enjoins,
“Do not thou that to thy neighbor which thou hatest when it is done to
thee.” Even the heathens had excogitated this great principle. There is a
saying of Aristotle, preserved by Diogenes Laertius, “Act towards your
friends as you would wish them to act towards you.” The Chinese have a
proverb, “Water does not remain on the mountain, or vengeance in a great
mind.” Wait on the Lord, and He shall save thee. The pious writer urges
the injured person to commit his cause to the Lord, not in the hope of
seeing vengeance taken on his enemy, but in the certainty that God will
help him to bear the wrong and deliver him IN HIS OWN GOOD
TIME AND WAY! The Christian takes Peter’s view, “Who is he that will
harm you if ye be followers of that which is good?” (I Peter 3:13), knowing
that “all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28;
compare Ecclesiasticus. 2:2, 6). Septuagint, “Say not, I will avenge myself on my
enemy, but wait on the Lord, that (ἵνα - hina – that) He may help thee.” The last
clause may be grammatically rendered thus, but it is more in accordance with the
spirit of the proverb to regard it as a promise.
Revenge and Its Antidote (v. 22)
from a natural instinct; it pretends to justify itself as the fair return for some
wrong, and it offers a compensation for the wrong suffered in the triumph
which it gains over the wrong doer. But it is both culpable and foolish.
Ø It is culpable. Even if revenge were desirable, we have no right to wreak
it on the head of the offender. We are not his judge and executioner. God
says, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay” (Romans 12:19). We have no
excuse for antedating the Divine vengeance in our impatience by taking
the law of retribution into our own hands. If another has hurt us, that fact
is no excuse whatever for our hurting him. Two wrongs do not make one
right. The spirit of vengeance in man is a spirit of hatred, and therefore
one for which there is no excuse. Much as an enemy may have injured us,
he is still our fellow man to whom we owe charity and forgiveness.
Ø It is foolish. At best it can offer but a gloomy compensation. Unless our
nature delights in malignity, there can be no real satisfaction in seeing an
enemy suffer. Though a natural passion may seem to be satisfied with a
gleam of fierce joy in the moment of triumph, this must be succeeded by
a dismal sense of the vanity of any such feelings. The after thought of
revenge must be bitter. Moreover, the exercise of vengeance will not cure
enmity, but only intensify it. Therefore it may just provoke a second and
greater wrong than that which it is avenging. There is no prospect before
it but increasing rancor, hatred; strife, misery.
wrong without compensation or hope. We may find a prospect of
something better than the bitter harvest of vengeance if we turn from
sinful man TO GOD! Then we shall see the true antidote.
Ø It springs .from faith. We have to be assured that God can and will help
us. We can thus afford to ignore the wrong that has been done us, or, if
that be impossible, we can learn to look above it and feel confident that if
God undertakes our cause, all will be well in the end. This faith will not
desire the ruin of our enemy. It is not an entrusting of vengeance to God,
though He must see justice done to the wrong doer. But it is a quiet
confidence in God’s saving grace. It is better to be delivered from the
trouble brought on us by the misconduct of others than to remain in that
trouble and see the guilty persons punished. We can afford to be
magnanimous and forget the unkindness of man when we are enjoying
the kindness of God.
Ø It is realized through prayer, patience, and hope.
o Prayer. We must wait on the Lord. Vengeance is lost in prayer.
We shall cease to feel the boiling of rage against our foe when
on our knees before God. There we cannot but remember how
utterly we depend upon mercy.
o Patience. Waiting on God generally implies some delay. We
must wait for the answer. Deliverance does not come at once.
Hasty revenge must be restrained by patience in prayer.
o Hope. God will save at last, if not immediately. The prospect of
this deliverance is a pleasing substitute for the hideous vision of
revenge on an enemy.
Resentment and Forgiveness (v. 22 and ch. 24:29)
The Christian doctrine of forgiveness finds here a distinct anticipation; but
that doctrine was not found in the highway, but rather in the byway of pre-
Christian morals. It made no mark. It did not find its way into the thought
and the feeling of the people.
· WE CAN EXPECT TO BE WRONGED, OR TO BELIEVE
OURSELVES WRONGED, AS WE GO ON OUR WAY. So conflicting
are our interests, so various our views, so many are the occasions when an
event or a remark will wear an entirely different aspect according to the
point of view from which it is regarded, that it is utterly unlikely, morally
impossible, that we should not be often placed in a position in which we
seem to he wronged. It may be some sentence spoken, or some action
taken, or some purpose settled upon, slight or serious, incidental or
malevolent, but we may take it that it is one part of the portion and burden
of our life.
· BITTER RESENTMENT IS DISTINCTLY DISALLOWED. It is
natural, it is human enough. As man has become under the reign of sin, it
finds a place in his heart if not in his creed, everywhere. It seems to be
right. It has one element that is right — the element of indignation. But
this is only one part of the feeling, and by no means the chief part. A bitter
animosity, engendered by the thought that something has been done
against us, is the main ingredient. And this is positively disallowed. “Say
not, I will recompense evil;” “It hath been said,… hate thine enemy; but I
say unto you, Love your enemies… do good to them that hate
you;....Avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath;” “Let all
bitterness and wrath and anger… be put away from you, with all malice”
(Matthew 5:43- 44; Romans 12:19; Ephesians 4:31).
· WE HAVE AN ADMIRABLE ALTERNATIVE. We can “wait on
the Lord,” and He will “save us.” We can:
Ø Go to God in prayer:
o take your wounded spirit to Him;
o cast your burden upon Him;
o seek and find a holy calm in communion with Him.
Ø Commit your cause unto Him; be like unto our Leader, “who, when He
was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but
committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously” (I Peter 2:23). We
shall thus ask God to save us from ourselves, from indulging thoughts and
feelings toward our neighbor winch shame rather than honor us, which
separate us in spirit from our Great Exemplar (ibid. v. 21); and to
save us from those who would injure us, working for us, in His own way
and time, our deliverance and recovery.
· WE WIN THE TRUE VICTORY. To be avenged on our enemy is a
victory of a certain kind; the moment of success is a moment of triumph, of
Ø That is a victory which is greatly and sadly qualified. When we regard
the matter disinterestedly and dispassionately, can we really envy such
triumph? Should we like to have in our heart the feelings which are
surging and swelling in the breast of the victor — feelings of bitter
hatred, and of positive delight in a brother’s humiliation, or suffering,
Ø The victory of forgiveness is pre-eminently Christian. It places us by
the side of our gracious Lord Himself (Luke 23:34), and of the best and
worthiest of His disciples (Acts 7:60; II Timothy 4:16).
Ø It gives to us a distinct spiritual resemblance to our Heavenly Father
Himself. (Matthew 5:45.)
23 “Divers weights are an abomination unto the LORD; and a false
balance is not good.” This is a repetition, with a slight variation, of v. 10 and
ch.11:1 (where see notes). Is not good. A litotes, equivalent to
“is very evil,” answering to “abomination” in the first member. Septuagint,
“is not good before him” (compare ch.24:23).
Smitten Sins (vs. 20-23)
· HATRED TO PARENTS. (v. 20.)
Ø It is unnatural beyond most vices, like hating the hand that lifts food to
Ø It is disobedience to a primary Divine command.
Ø It incurs the Divine curse and the darkest doom.
· THE VICE OF GRASPING. (v. 21) It springs from excessive,
irregular, disordered desire, and generally from an ill-led life. We must wait
upon God’s order; must distinguish the necessary from the superfluous and
the luxurious, and seek no enterprises that lie out of our proper vocation; if
we would arm ourselves against this unholy temptation, and avoid the
curse which attends compliance with it. For ill-gotten wealth can never
· THE REVENGEFUL SPIRIT. (v. 22.) It costs more to avenge
injuries than to endure them. “He that studieth revenge keepeth his wounds
open.” Let us recall the lessons of the sermon on the mount, and if there is
any one who has aroused our dislike, pray for him (not in public, but in the
privacy of the heart).
· IN EQUITY, WHETHER IN COMMERCE OR IN GENERAL
RELATIONS. (v. 23; see v. 10.) What is shameful when detected is
no less hideous in the sight of God, though concealed from men.
v. 23. — (See homily on ch. 16:11)
24 “Man’s goings are of the LORD; how can a man then understand
his own way?” Man’s goings are of the Lord. In the first clause the word for
“man” is geber, which implies “a mighty man;” in the second clause the
word is adam, “a human creature.” So the Septuagint has ἀνὴρ – anaer – man –
in one clause and θνητὸς – thnaetos – mortal - in the other. The proverb says
that the steps of a great and powerful man depend, as their final cause, upon the
Lord; he conditions and controls results. Man has free will, and is responsible for
His actions, but God foreknows them, and holds the thread that connects them
together; He gives preventing grace; He gives efficient grace: and man
blindly works out the designs of Omnipotence according as he obeys or
resists. A similar maxim is found in Psalm 37:23, “A man’s goings are
established of the Lord,” but the meaning there is that it is God’s aid which
enables a man to do certain actions. Here we have very much the same
intimation that is found in ch. 2:6 and 19:21; and see note on ch. 16:9.
Hence arises the old prayer used formerly at prime, and
inserted now (with some omissions) at the end of the Anglican Communion
Service: “O almighty Lord, and everlasting God, vouchsafe, we beseech
thee, to direct, sanctify, and govern, both our hearts and bodies, our
thoughts, words, and actions, in the ways of thy laws, and in the works of
thy commandments; that through thy most mighty protection we may be
preserved both here and forever.” If man cannot see all sides, as God does,
cannot comprehend the beginning, middle, and end in one view, how then
can a man (a weak mortal) understand his own ways. How can he find out
of himself whither he should go, or what will be the issue of his doings
(compare ch.16:25; Jeremiah 10:23)? St. Gregory, “It is well
said by Solomon [Ecclesiastes 9:1], ‘There are righteous and wise men,
and their works are in the hand of God; and yet no man knoweth whether
he is deserving of love or of hatred; but all things are kept uncertain for the
time to come.’ Hence it is said again by the same Solomon, ‘What man will
be able to understand his own way?’ And any one doing good or evil is
doubtless known by the testimony of his own conscience. But it is said that
their own way is not known to men, for this reason, because, even if a man
understands that he is acting rightly, yet he knows not, under the strict
inquiry, whither he is going” (‘Moral.,’ 29:34).
25 “It is a snare to the man who devoureth that which is holy, and after
vows to make inquiry.” It is a snare to the man who devoureth that which is
holy. This verse, which is plainly a warning against rash vows, has received
more than one interpretation. The Vulgate has, Ruina est homini devorare
sanctos, which is explained to mean that it is destruction for a man to
persecute the saints of God. But the word devorare is not certain, as the
manuscripts vary between this and four other readings, viz. devotares,
denotare, devovere, and devocare. The Authorized Version signifies that it
is a sin to take for one’s own consumption things dedicated to God, as
firstfruits, the priests’ portions, etc.: or a man’s snare, i.e. his covetousness
(I Timothy 6:9), leads him to commit sacrilege. But it is best to take יָלַע
(yala) as the abbreviated future of לוּע or לָעַע, “to speak rashly;” and then
kodesh, “holiness,” will be an exclamation, like korban (Mark 7:11). The
clause will then run, “It is a snare to a man rashly to cry, Holiness!” equivalent
to “It is holy!” i.e. to use the formula for consecrating something to holy
purposes. Septuagint, “It is a snare to a man hastily to consecrate something
of his own” (compare Ecclesiastes 5:2, 4-7). And after vows to make inquiry;
i.e. after he has made his vow, to begin to consider whether he can fulfill it or not.
This is a snare to a man, strangles his conscience, and leads him into the
grievous sins of perjury and sacrilege. Septuagint, “For after vowing
ensueth repentance.” We should think thrice before we act once. To act first
and reflect afterwards is foolish and helpless; thus we reap the good of neither
thought nor action. (My neighbor, the late Bob Smith, once told me “You
measure twice and cut once, else you measure once and cut twice!” –
CY – circa 1974)
26 “A wise king scattereth the wicked, and bringeth the wheel over
them.” A wise king scattereth the wicked (v. 8). The verb is
zarah, which means “to winnow, or sift.” The king separates the wicked
and the good, as the winnowing fan or shovel divides the chaff from the
wheat. The same metaphor is used of Christ (Matthew 3:12), “Whose
fan is in His hand, and He will throughly purge His floor, and gather His
wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire”
(compare Jeremiah 15:7). Septuagint, “A winnower (λικμήτωρ – likmaetor)
of the ungodly is a wise king.” And bringeth the wheel over them. The
threshing wheel is meant (see Isaiah 28:27; Amos 1:3). This was a
wooden frame with three or four rollers under it armed with iron teeth. It
was drawn by two oxen, and, aided by the weight of the driver, who had
his seat upon it, it crushed out the grain, and cut up the straw into fodder.
Another machine much used in
fastened together side by side, and having sharp stones fixed in rows on the
lower surface. It is not implied that the king employed the corn drag as an
instrument of punishment, which was sometimes so used in war, as
possibly may be inferred from II Samuel 12:31; I Chronicles 20:3;
and Amos 1:3. The idea of threshing is carried on, and the notion is rather
of separation than of punishment, though the latter is not wholly excluded.
The wise ruler will not only distinguish between the godless and the good,
but will show his discrimination by visiting the evil with condign
punishment. Septuagint, “He will bring the wheel upon them;” the Vulgate
has curiously, Incurvat super eos fornicem, “He bends an arch over them,”
which Latin commentators explain as a triumphal arch, meaning that the
king conquers and subdues the wicked, and celebrates his victory over
them. A patent anachronism which needs no comment!
27 “The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the
inward parts of the belly.” The spirit of men is the candle (lamp) of the Lord.
Neshamah, “spirit,” or “breath,” is the principle of life breathed into man
by GOD HIMSELF! (Genesis 2:7), distinguishing man from brutes — the
conscious human soul. We may consider it as equivalent to what we
Christians call conscience, with its twofold character of receiving light and
illumination from God, and sitting as judge and arbiter of actions. It is
named “the Lord’s lamp,” because this moral sense is a direct gift of God,
and enables a man to see his real condition. Our Lord (Matthew 6:23)
speaks of the light that is in man, and gives a solemn warning against the
danger of letting it be darkened by neglect and sin; and Paul (I Corinthians 2:11)
argues, “Who among men knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of the man,
which is in him?” As Elihu says (Job 32:8), “There is a spirit in man, and the
breath of the Almighty giveth them understanding.” And Aristotle speaks of
practical wisdom (φρόνησις – phronaesis) combined with virtue as “the eye of
the soul (ὄμμα τῆς ψυχῆς – omma taes psuchaes).” Searching all the
inward parts of the belly; i.e. the very depths of the soul, probing thoughts,
desires, affections, will, and approving or reproving, according as they are in
conformity with or opposition to God’s Law. We must remember that
Eastern houses, before the introduction of glass, had very scanty openings
to admit light, and lamps were necessary if for any purpose the interior had
to be thoroughly illuminated. Hence themetaphor used above would strike
an Oriental more forcibly than it strikes us. Septuagint, “The breath (πνοὴ –
pnoae as ch.11:13) of man is a light of the Lord, who searches the chambers
of the belly.” St. Gregory (‘Moral.,’ 12:64), “We ought to bear in mind that in
holy Writ by the title of the ‘belly,’ or the ‘womb,’ the mind is used to be
understood. For the light of grace, which comes from above, affords a
‘breathway’ to man unto life, which same light is said to ‘search all the
inward parts of the belly,’ in that it penetrates all the secrets of the heart,
that the things which were hidden in the soul touching itself it may bring
back before the eyes thereof” (
The Inward Light (v. 27)
Man may be said to be governed from above, from without, and also from
within; by the power which is from heaven, by human society, and also by
the forces which are resident in his own spiritual nature.
He created him a spirit. God is a spirit; so also is man, His offspring, his
human child. Our spiritual nature is endowed with the faculties of
perception, of memory, of imagination, of reason. These include — some
would say that to these there has to be added — the power which is usually
called conscience, the exercise of our spiritual faculties directed to all
questions of morality. This moral judgment, or conscience, of ours:
Ø Distinguishes between RIGHT and WRONG. Decides what is
good and what is evil, what is just and what unjust, what is pure
and what impure, what is true and what false, what is kind and
what cruel, it is an inward light; it is “the candle of the Lord.”
Ø Approves of the one and disapproves of the other.
Ø Acts with such force that, on the one hand, there is a distinct
satisfaction, and even joy; that, on the other hand, there is
distinct dissatisfaction, and even pain, sometimes amounting
to an intolerable agony. There is hardly any delight we can
experience which is so worthy of ourselves as the children of God,
as is that which fills our heart when we know that, regardless of
our own interests and prospects, we have done the right
thing; there is no wretchedness so unbearable as remorse, the
stinging and smarting of soul when our conscience rebukes us
for some sad transgression.
Ø Is a profoundly penetrating power. It “searches all the inward parts”
of the soul (Hebrews 4:12); it considers not only what is on the
surface, but what is far beneath. It deals with thoughts, with feelings,
with purposes and desires, with the motives which move us, and with
the spirit that animates us.
sinneth against Divine wisdom, and therefore against the Divine One, does
indeed “wrong his own soul.” Every wrong action tends to weaken the
authority of conscience, and, after a while, it disturbs its judgment, so that
its decision is not as true and straight as it was. This is the saddest aspect
of the consequence of sin. When the inward light, the candle of the Lord,
begins to grow dim, and ultimately becomes darkened, then the soul is
confused and the path of life is lost. If our eye is evil, our whole body is full
of darkness; if the light that is in us be darkness, how great must the
darkness be (Matthew 6:23)! When that which should be directing us
into the truth and wisdom of heaven is misleading us, and is positively
directing us to folly and wrong, we are far on the road to spiritual ruin.
We have to mourn the fact that this is no rare occurrence; that sin does so
confuse and blind our souls that men do very frequently fall into the moral
condition in which they “call evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20 - Such
seems to be our plight today – CY – 2014) The light that is in them is
Christ offers Himself to us as the Divine Physician; He says to us, “Wilt thou
be made whole?” (John 5:6) And He who so graciously and mightily healed
the bodies HEALS ALSO THE SOULS OF MEN! He does so by recalling
our affection to God our Father, by setting our heart right. Then loving Him,
we love His Word, His truth; we study and we copy the life of our Lord. And
as the heart is renewed and the life is changed, the judgment also is restored;
we see all things in another light; we “see light in God’s light.” The candle of
the Lord is rekindled, the lamp is trimmed; it gives a new light to all that are
in the house — to all the faculties that are in the house of our nature. Let us
yield ourselves to Christ our Lord, let us study His truth and His life, and
our conscience will become more and more true in its decisions, and in its
peaceful light we shall walk “all the day long,” truly happy in heart,
enjoying the constant favor of “THE FATHER OF LIGHTS!”
28 “Mercy and truth preserve the king: and his throne is upholden by
mercy.” Mercy and truth preserve the king. (For “mercy and truth,”
see note on ch. 3:3.) The love and faithfulness which the king
displays in dealing with his subjects elicits the like virtues in them, and
THESE ARE THE SAFEGUARDS OF HIS THRONE! His throne is
upholden by mercy; or, love. So the king is well called the father of his
people, and in modern times the epithet “gracious” is applied to the sovereign
as being the fountain of mercy and condescension. Septuagint, “Mercy
(ἐλεημοσύνη – eleaemosunae – alms; mercifulness) and truth are a guard to a king,
and will surround his throne with righteousness.” “The subject’s love,” says our
English maxim, “is the king’s lifeguard.” For human government, to be sound,
stable, and. respected, must be a reflection of the Divine government. And the
eternal features of the latter are love and faithfulness. Clemency and severity
are but two sides of the one living and eternal love which rules men only for
v. 28. — (See homily on ch. 16:12)
29 “The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old
men is the gray head.” The glory of young men is their strength. That which
makes the ornament (tiphereth) of youth is unimpaired strength and vigor,
which can only be attained by due exercise combined with self-control. The
moralist (Ecclesiastes 11:9) bids the young man rejoice in his youth,
and let his heart cheer him in those happy days, but at the same time
remember that he is responsible for the use which he makes of his powers
and faculties, for for all these things God will bring him to judgment. The
Greek gives a needful warning:
Μέμνησο νέος α}ν ὡς γέρων ἔσῃ ποτέ.
Memnaeso neos on os geron esae pote.
“In youth remember thou wilt soon be old.”
(I can verify this since I am now seventy years old
And it has not been that long ago since I was a teenager!
CY – 2014)
Septuagint, “Wisdom is an ornament to young men.” But koach is bodily,
not mental, power. The beauty of old men is the grey head (ch.16:31).
That which gives an honorable look to old age is the hoary head,
which suggests wisdom and experience (compare Eccleiasticus. 25:3-6).
On the other hand, the Greek gnomist warns:
Πολιὰ χρόνου μήνυσις οὐ φρονήσεως.
Polia chronou maenusis ou phronaeseos.
“Grey hairs not wisdom indicate, but age.”
Young Men and Old (v. 29)
Ø Every age of man has some excellence. Youth appears vain in the grave
vision of age, and age looks gloomy to the bright eyes of youth. Yet both
youth and age have their time of praise. It is possible for a man to miss all
excellence in life and to live in dishonor from youth to age. But that
depends upon his own conduct, and he only will be to blame for spoiling
every age of his life if he does thus live in dishonor. There are honorable
and desirable conditions for life throughout its whole length.
Ø The excellences of the various ages of man are different. The glory of a
young man is not identical with the beauty of an old man. The common
mistake is that in the narrowness of our personal experience we judge of
other periods of life by the standards that only apply to those in which we
are severally living. Hence either undue admiration or unreasonable
disgust. It is cheering to know that a very different condition from that
which floats before us as our ideal may be equally happy and honorable.
ENERGY AND THE USE IT MAKES OF IT.
Ø Energy is a characteristic of youth. Then the fresh unfaded powers are
just opening out to their full activity. This is the time for service. The
young men go to the wars. “It is well for a man to bear the yoke in his
youth.” (Lamentations 3:27). All kinds of fresh activities spring out of
the fertile soil of youth. An indolence in youth is simply disgraceful.
Ø Youthful energy is admirable.
o Physical strength. This is a gift of God. It is a natural perfection
of bodily life. It carries with it possibilities of manly work.
“Muscular Christianity” may be as holy as feeble asceticism.
o Mental strength. The intellectual feats of brain athletics indicate
noble energies and arduous industry. The mind is from God, and
its ripened powers render Him glory.
o Moral strength. Daniel was stronger than Samson. The chief glory
of youthful strength is here — the power to resist temptation, to
live a true life, to fight all lies and shameful thoughts and deeds,
and stand up firmly for the right.
Ø Youthful energy should be used in the service of Christ. Then its glory is
radiant. A lower use of it dims its luster. Degradation to purposes of sin
turns its splendor into shame.
Ø Experience ripens with years. The suggestion of that fact may be seen in
the picture of the grey head, the beauty of which chiefly resides in the
thought of the harvest of years that it represents. Strength may be lost,
but experience is gained. There is an exchange, and it is not for any to
say on which side the real advantage lies.
Ø The experience of years has a beauty of its own. We usually associate
youth and beauty, and we think of beauty declining with advancing
years. Painful signs of life’s stern battle break the fair charms of youth.
But old age brings a new beauty. This is often seen even in the
countenance, finely chiseled with delicate lines of thought and feeling into
a rare grace and dignity. But the higher beauty is that of soul, the beauty
of Simeon when he held the infant Saviour in his arms (Luke 2:25-32).
The crowning beauty of age is in a perfected saintliness. To attain to this
is to go beyond the glory of youth. Yet there must accompany it a certain
melancholy at the thought of the lost energy of earlier years, until the old
man can look forward to the renewed youth, the eternal energy of the life
v. 29 (latter clause) (See homily on ch. 16:31)
The Glory of Young Manhood (v. 29).
A weak young man is not a sight that we like to see. Between young
manhood and weakness there is no natural agreement; the two things do
not accord with one another. In young men we look for strength, and
delight to see it there. Moreover, youth itself is proud of the strength of
which it is conscious, and “glories” in it. We look at —
· THAT WHEREON WE CONGRATULATE IT. We look with
satisfaction, and perhaps with pride, upon the young man who possesses:
Ø Physical strength. Well-developed muscular power and skill, the
attainment of the largest possible share of bodily vigor and capacity, this
is one element of manliness, ands although it is not the highest, it is good in
itself, and so far as it goes.
Ø Intellectual power. The possession of knowledge, of mental vigor and
grasp, of reasoning faculty, of business shrewdness and capacity, of
imaginative power, of strength of will; but especially:
Ø Moral and spiritual strength. Power to resist the evil forces which are
around us; to put aside, without hesitation, the solicitations to unholy
pleasure or unlawful gain; to decline the fellowship and friendship which
might be pecuniarily or socially advantageous, but which would be morally
and spiritually injurious; to move onward in the way of duty, unscathed by
the darts and arrows of evil which are in the air; to undertake and to
execute beneficent work; to range one’s self with the honorable and holy
few against the unworthy multitude; to bear a brave witness on behalf of
truth, purity, sobriety, righteousness, whatever the forces that are in league
against it; — this is the noblest element of strength, and this is
preeminently the glory of young manhood.
· ITS PECULIAR TEMPTATION. The temptation of the strong is to
disregard and even to despise the weak, to look down with a proud sense
of superiority on those who are less capable than themselves. This is both
foolish and sinful. For comparative weakness is that from which the strong
have themselves come up, and into which they will themselves go down. It
is a question of time, or, if not of time, of privilege and bestowment
and a proud contempt is quite misplaced. The young should clearly
understand that strength, when it is modest, is a beautiful thing, but when
haughty and disdainful, is offensive in the sight both of God and man.
· ITS CLEAR OBLIGATION. The first thing that human strength
should do is to recognize the source whence it came (“For who maketh
thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not
receive? now if thou didst receive it, why doest thou glory, as if thou
hast not received it? (I Corinthians 4:7), and to let its recognition find
expression in devout and reverent action. “Thy God hath commanded
thy strength.” (Psalm 68:28) The Psalmist goes on to pray “....strengthen,
O God, that which thou has wrought in us.” As, ultimately, all strength
of every kind proceeds from God; and as He constantly sustains in power,
and the strong as much as the weak are dependent on HIS FATHERLY
KINDNESS and as the strong owe more to His goodness than the weak
(inasmuch as they have received more at His hand); — the first thing
they should ask themselves is — What can I render unto the Lord
for all His benefits toward me? (ibid. ch. 116:12) And they will
find that to devote their strength to the service of their Saviour
is to find a source of blessedness immeasurably higher, as well as far
more lasting, than that which comes from the sense of power. It is not
what we have, but what we give, that fills the soul with pure and
Take an athletic man, the most perfect specimen of athletic training,
bone flesh and sinew, if that is all, he is but 1/3 of a man and useless
Send him to the schools and cram his mind full, he is but 2/3 of a man
and now dangerous as well as useless.
Put Christ in his heart to control and urge his purpose and you have
AN IDEAL MAN!
30 “The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward
parts of the belly.” The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil. So the
Vulgate, Livor vulneris absterget mala. Chaburoth means “stripes,” and
the proverb says that deep-cutting stripes are the only effectual cure of evil;
i.e. severe punishment is the best healing process in cases of moral
delinquency (Proverbs 19:29). (This our nation knew once upon a time,
BUT NOT NO MORE! – CY – 2014). Painful remedies, incisions, cauteries,
amputations, are often necessary in the successful treatment of bodily
ailments; spiritual sickness needs STERNER, MORE PIERCING
REMEDIES! So do stripes the inward parts of the belly; or better, and strokes
that reach, etc. The stings of conscience, warnings and reproofs which penetrate
to the inmost recesses of the heart, chastisement which affects the whole spiritual
being — these are needful to THE CORRECTION and PURIFICATION
OF INVETERATE EVIL! Aben Ezra connects this verse with the preceding thus:
as strength gives a glory to young men, and hoar hairs adorn an old man, so wounds
and bruises, so to speak, ornament the sinner, mark him out, and at the
same time HEAL and AMEND HIM! It may also be connected with v. 27. If a
man will not use the lamp which God has given him for illumination and
correction, he must expect severe chastisement and sternest discipline.
Septuagint, “Bruises and contusions befall bad men, and plagues
that reach to the chambers of the belly.” St. Gregory, ‘Moral.,’ 23:40, “By
the blueness of a wound he implies the discipline of blows on the body. But
blows in the secret parts of the belly are the wounds of the mind within,
which are inflicted by compunction. For as the belly is distended when
filled with food, so is the mind puffed up when swollen with wicked
thoughts. The blueness, then, of a wound, and blows in the secret parts of
the belly, cleanse away evil, because both outward discipline does away
with faults, and compunction pierces the distended mind with the
punishment of penance. But they differ from each other in this respect, that
the wounds of blows give us pain, the sorrows of compunction have good
savor. The one afflict and torture, the others restore when they afflict us.
Through the one there is sorrow in affliction, through the other there is joy
in grief” (
went astray: but now have I kept thy word………..It is good for me that
I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” (Psalm 119: 67, 71)
I had never known," said Martin Luther's wife, "what such and such things meant,
in such and such psalms, such complaints and workings of spirit; I had never
understood the practice of Christian duties, had not God brought me under some
affliction." It is very true that God's rod is as the schoolmaster's pointer to the child,
pointing out the letter, that he may the better take notice of it; thus He pointeth out to
us many good lessons which we should never otherwise have learned. “Evil is
cured, not by words, but by blows; suffering is as necessary as eating and
The Truth of Life in Diverse Aspects (vs. 24-30)
We may divide the matter as follows.
shortsighted, and human direction inadequate. It is a gracious fact, and, if
acknowledged, brings blessing to the trustful mind and heart. Each man has
a life vocation. God appoints it, and will reveal the means for the
attainment of it. We cannot enter the kingdom except through THE
GUIDANCE OF CHRIST!
· HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY. (v. 27.) There is a light within us, or
conscience in the most comprehensive sense. By the help of reason we may
judge other men; by that of conscience, ourselves. It is in another statement
the power of reflection, the inner mirror of the soul.
· GENERAL RELATED TRUTHS.
Ø The necessity of pondering well our wishes. (v. 25.) We should think
thrice before we act once. To act first and reflect afterwards is foolish and
helpless; thus we reap the good of neither thought nor action.
Ø The necessity of discrimination in rulers. (v. 26.) The figure is
borrowed from agriculture, from the process of sifting and threshing — the
latter in a penal sense (II Samuel 12:31; I Chronicles 20:3; Amos 1:3).
It is carried into the gospel. The Divine Judge’s “fan is in his hand,
and he will throughly purge his floor.” (We must submit to law or be
crushed by its penal action.
Ø The necessity of love and faithfulness in government. (v. 28.) For
human government, to be sound, stable, and. respected, must be a
reflection of the Divine government. And the eternal features of the latter
are love and faithfulness. Clemency and severity are but two sides of the
one living and eternal love which rules men only for their salvation.
Ø The beauty of piety in youth and age. (v. 29.) Let the young man in
Christ approve his strength by manful self-conquest, and the old man by
riper wisdom and blameless conversation (I John 2:13-14).
Ø The necessity of inward purification. (v. 30.) And to this end the
necessity of chastisement. In bodily disease we recognize the struggle of
life against that which is harmful to it; and in the afflictions of the soul the
struggle of the God-awakened soul against its evils. Luther says, “Evil is
cured, not by words, but by blows; suffering is as necessary as eating and
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