Proverbs 20



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 μέθηhubristikon methaeBeer 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 Europe (and America

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

intemperance of England today (Europe and America included – CY – 2014)



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 :




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.




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.



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.



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.



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 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

to cowardice.


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, (ἐξαντλήσειexantlaesei

draws out  - Septuagint) the hidden thought.




                                                Evils to be Avoided (vs. 1-5)




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

Tim.,’ Oxford transl.). The contrast between show, or promise, and

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

Romans 3:4).


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

dependence on Providence, of the happy results of a holy life.





                                    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 Columbus, or a Galileo, and the miserable self-

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


                                    Johnny Cash


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.


  • THE UTTER UGLINESS OF IMPURITY. To the eye of holy men

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;

Hebrews 12:14)


  • THE ONE WAY OF RETURN. When the heart sees, and is ashamed

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 kingdom of God.



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

and soils?

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;

Hebrews 13:20-21).



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 mens 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.

(Psalm 50:10)

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 Vatican), “In his pursuits

(ἐπιήδευμασινepitaedeumasin ) 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)


  • A PICTURE OF CHILDHOOD. First, let this picture be regarded on its

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 childs 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.


  • A LESSON FOR ALL AGES. If even a child is to be known by his

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 text.


·         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 of the Grand Canyon which I took

in October, 2013 – CY); — these are very striking instances of the

wonderful skill and power of our Creator.



  • EVIDENCES OF DIVINE GOODNESS. For what sources of

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


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


 both of our outward life and of the inner workings of our soul!


·         OPPORTUNITY FOR DIVINE SERVICE. For here are the means we want

      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 ἐξαρωῇςhina mae exarthaesyou 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)



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.




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

lower rate.


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.



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

definite period.


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)



  • Laboriousness. (v. 13) This is a command of God: “If any man will

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



  • Honesty.


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; the Dead Sea fruits turn to ashes

on the lips.  (Deuteronomy 32:32)


  • Sense and prudence. (vs. 15-16, 18.)


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.


  • Reserve with the tongue, or caution against flatterers. (v. 19.) The

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 θέλητεhosa an thelaetewhatever 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 - hinathat) 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)


  • THE SIN AND FOLLY OF REVENGE. This passion appears to spring

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.


  • THE ANTIDOTE TO REVENGE. We are not to be left to suffer

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.




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.



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

exultation. But:


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,

or loss?


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

the mouth.

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).



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 θνητὸςthnaetosmortal - 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 (λικμήτωρlikmaetor)

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 Palestine was made of two thick planks

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 (φρόνησιςphronaesis) combined with virtue as “the eye of

the soul (ὄμμα τῆς ψυχῆςomma 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” (Oxford translation).



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.


  • OUR SPIRITUAL NATURE. God created man in His own image; i.e.

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!” 

(James 1:17)


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


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

(ἐλεημοσύνηeleaemosunaealms; 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

their salvation.



                                    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 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.





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 —



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

            abiding joy.



                        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

                        to society;


                        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” (Oxford translation).  The Psalmist said “Before I was afflicted I

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.


·         DIVINE PROVIDENCE. (v. 24.) It is needful, for human wisdom is

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



·         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.




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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