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A.  Genre

The proverbs

B.  Author

of Solomon.

Paul Koptak: “Proverbs of Solomon” recalls the opening words of the book as it marks a new major section. We might ask why the superscription is necessary; a first and obvious answer is the change in form from extended instruction in chapters 1–9 to the individual saying or sentence.

Lindsay Wilson: This collection from 10:1 – 22:16 is Solomonic, perhaps in the sense that he authored many of them, adopted and adapted others, and gathered still more to give a comprehensive set of snapshots and cameos that tell it like it is.


A.  (:1b-5) Wisdom and Wealth

Paul Koptak: A chiastic structure of 10:1–5 is defined by the use of keywords and recurrent themes. The keyword “son” and the theme of parental joy and honor link verses 1 and 5. The words “righteous” and “wicked” and the theme of riches create a compound truth in verses 2 and 4; diligence and wealth are better than laziness and poverty, but ill-gotten treasures will not profit. The center of the structure (v. 3) sets the situation of wealth and poverty in the larger context of God’s care for the righteous and his frustration of craving greed.

A  Wise son makes parents glad, foolish son brings grief (v. 1)

B  Treasures of wickedness do not profit (v. 2)

C  Yahweh satisfies and thwarts (v. 3)

B′  Riches of the diligent (v. 4)

A′  Wise son gathers, sleeping son brings shame (v. 5)

Lindsay Wilson: The contrast between a wise and foolish person is fundamental to the book, and rightly begins the sentence sayings. Both parents are affected by whether their son chooses wisdom or folly (see also 1:8; 15:20; 23:24–25). In a patriarchal society a father is more focused on the public persona of his son, and the public wisdom of his son makes him glad (13:1; 17:21, 25; 28:7). We might have expected ‘proud’ (in a good sense), but glad (śāmaḥ, to be glad) captures the idea of delight and satisfaction. In that society the mother would have seen the son mainly at home, and the path of folly will spoil interpersonal and family relationships. Sorrow speaks of the grief that comes from ruptured relationships.

Caleb Nelson:

I.  Wisdom’s Point: To Please One’s Father, v. 1

II.  Wisdom on Wealth, vv. 2-4

A.  Wealth is not the most important thing, v. 2

B.  Wealth is a gift from Yahweh, v. 3

C.  Wealth demands hard work, v. 4

III.  Wisdom on Work, v. 5

A.  The wise son works at the right time, v. 5a

B.  The wise son’s work makes his father proud, v. 5b

IV.  Wisdom on Wages, Ultimate and Penultimate, vv. 15-16

A.  Penultimate Security: Wealth

B.  Penultimate Risk: Poverty

C.  Ultimate Security: Righteous Work

D.  Ultimate Risk: Unrighteous Work

  1. (:1b)  Impact on Parents

A wise son makes a father glad,

But a foolish son is a grief to his mother.

Bruce Waltke: The introduction at this seam in the book again mentions both parents (see 1:8) and contrasts the psychological effects of a wise son (bēn ḥākām; cf. p. 94) and the foolish son (bēn kesîl; cf. p. 112-113) upon them. Like the prologue, the saying assumes that wisdom is a matter of sons receiving the traditions of generations (see p. 87-88). The saying is stated in a general way in order that its truth may remain open for diverse instantiations (cf. 13:1; 15:20; 17:25).

Charles Bridges: This first verse may have been placed at the beginning to point to the value of a godly education in its personal, social, and national influence, which are linked to both time and eternity.  The child who has been prayed over, instructed, and disciplined will in the Lord’s time choose the path of wisdom and so bring joy to his father.

  1. (:2-3)  Sufficiency of the Lord

Bruce Waltke: Thematically both address the relationship of the wicked/righteous to material possessions. Verse 2 pertains to the security of their lives, and v. 3 to the gratification of their appetites. These are not unrelated because the human appetite ultimately aims to preserve life. By coupling the present “treasures of wickedness” with “what the wicked crave the LORD thrusts aside,” the quatrain infers that the frustration of the wicked and the satisfaction of the righteous occur in the indefinite future, not necessarily. Until the time of justice the righteous may suffer hunger (see pp. 108; Luke 4:2; 6:21; 1 Cor. 4:11; 2 Cor. 11:27; Rev. 6:6).

a.  (:2)  Value of Integrity

Ill-gotten gains do not profit,

But righteousness delivers from death.

Lindsay Wilson: What someone loses (e.g. integrity) in gaining wealth means that he or she has lost something more valuable than financial gain. This serves as a warning for those who think that it will be to their advantage to gain wealth by dubious means.

Paul Koptak: This contrast is (lit.) between the “treasures of wickedness” that are no profit when compared with “righteousness that delivers from death.” “Death,” the last word in the saying, determines its meaning. For anyone who takes moral shortcuts in acquiring wealth, those riches will not offer security or long life, the opposite of death in Proverbs (cf. 15:16; 21:6). “Righteousness” implies the presence of Yahweh, who is named in the next verse.

Verses 2–3 form a couplet, each beginning with the Hebrew negative lo (“not”), so they should be compared. The first and second lines of each match up well: Treasures of wickedness do not profit (v. 2a), but Yahweh does not allow the righteous to go hungry (v. 3a). That stress on Yahweh’s care for the righteous explains why righteousness delivers from death (v. 2b). So we also see that the terms for righteousness and wickedness correspond, with wickedness going first and last, righteousness going in between. We will note a similar pairing as we look at vv. 4–5.

Charles Bridges: What was the benefit of Naboth’s vineyard to Ahab when in his ivory palace he was withering under God’s curse?

Tremper Longman: The first colon surprises because we would not expect the wicked to have treasures in the first place. Earlier and throughout, Proverbs teaches that the righteous are more likely than the wicked to have the good things of this world (as in 3:15–16; 10:22). Indeed, wealth is held out as a motivation for the pursuit of wisdom and its associated righteousness (14:24). But here we learn that wealth in the possession of the wicked provides them with no real benefit anyway. It is kind of a paradox, but treasures do not profit (see also 11:4). The second colon claims that righteousness, a quality of the wise, extricates from death; it may indicate precisely how the treasures of the wicked do not profit. They cannot save from death.

b.  (:3)  Satisfaction of Needs

The LORD will not allow the righteous to hunger,

But He will thrust aside the craving of the wicked.

Allen Ross: The general observation is that the Lord rewards the righteous with the satisfaction of their needs. The text literally says that he will not leave unsatisfied “the appetite [nepeš, lit., ‘soul’] of the righteous,” which here includes the inner urge toward success. Conversely, “the wicked are condemned to live forever with their unfulfilled, and so sterile, desires, which cannot be transformed into practical attainment” (McKane, 426).

  1. (:4-5) Reward for Diligent Work

Bruce Waltke: The Practical Foundation of Wealth

The righteous work both diligently (v. 4) and at the right time (v. 5). . .

industry, contentment, thrift, and forethought will produce wealth and protect against poverty (cf. 12:11; 13:4, 11; 14:23; 18:9; 19:15; 20:4, 13; 21:5–6, 17, 20–21, 25; 28:14b, 24, 27), and must be held in tension with the counter-proverbs that assume that the righteous may be temporarily poor and the wicked rich due to the tyranny of the latter. In a future that outlasts death the labor of the righteous will be rewarded (see 10:2, 3; 1 Tim. 4:8).

Jonathan Akin: In Proverbs, laziness refers to people who cannot see their assignments through to completion (see Moore, “Finding Jesus”). They might start a task and get to the middle of it, but they walk away before it is finished. It’s the son who helped plant the crops but is not there during harvest to finish the task. In our day, the laziness of Proverbs looks like distractions that keep you from staying on task. You cannot complete your assignments because Facebook distracts you for thirty minutes. You come back and do five minutes of work, but then check Twitter for fifteen minutes. Laziness is seen in the extended adolescence of our culture where kids can’t grow up and provide for themselves but keep ending up back at Mom and Dad’s house (bringing shame to their parents, even if the parents won’t admit it).

a.  (:4)  Negligence vs. Diligence

Poor is he who works with a negligent hand,

But the hand of the diligent makes rich.

Paul Koptak: This verse in Hebrew is structured chiastically, with terms for poverty and wealth coming at beginning and end, the contrast between slack and diligent hands adjacent to one another in the middle. The statement grows richer in meaning when set alongside its adjacent verses and in its larger context of 10:1–5. Its general truth about the value of hard work should not be taken as a promise that God is constrained to fulfill but as a description of what generally happens in life. Murphy reminds us that “no proverb says it all.”

Verses 4–5 also relate to one another in chiastic or mirror fashion—the laziness, poverty, and shame of 10:4a and 10:5b contrasted with the diligence, wealth, and wisdom of 10:4b and 10:5a.

Caleb Nelson: What does diligence look like? It looks like showing up on time, doing your work with excellence, speed, and focus, and constantly thinking about how to do your work better.

b.  (:5)  Diligent Foresight vs. Slothful Procrastination

He who gathers in summer is a son who acts wisely,

But he who sleeps in harvest is a son who acts shamefully.”

Tremper Longman: This proverb is a specific application of the more general principle of the previous verse and may well be placed in this context with the intention of having both read together. Insight is a quality of the wise; disgrace is a moral evaluation of the fool. The contrast is between an industrious son and a slacker. The diligent one works hard and presumably thrives, whereas the lazy son’s actions will certainly lead to poverty and ultimately to hunger.

B.  (:6-14) Wisdom and Communication

Bruce Waltke: The subunit on communication features body parts in the first verse of each quatrain: “head” and “mouth” (v. 6), “heart” and “lips” (“babbling,” v. 8), “eyes” and “lips” (“babbling,” v. 10), “mouth” (twice, v. 11), “lips” and “back” (v. 13). The section falls into two equal halves of four antithetical proverbs (vv. 6–9, 11–14) around a janus pivot (v. 10). “The mouth” is specifically mentioned in the introduction to both of its halves (vv. 6b, 11a, b); its mention again in v. 14b forms an inclusio around the section. Verses 6–9 focus on the effects of good and bad communication on oneself, and vv. 11–14 on their effects on others. The center verse chiastically reverses this pattern, pointing to the pain of poor communication on others in verset A and on oneself in verset B. Both halves are introduced by juxtaposing the righteous person with wicked people (vv. 6, 11) in connection with a striking pun. Using the same syntax, their nominal clauses in versets A describe the state of the righteous and their verbal clauses of their B versets the fate of the wicked. In addition to the main topic advocating wise speech, the topic of wisdom’s values punctuates the whole, especially in the rearing sayings of the quatrains (vv. 7, 9, 13), the same as in ch. 5.

Caleb Nelson: Wisdom will give you a truckload of blessings; folly will take everything you’ve got.

I.  What Wisdom and Folly Offer You, vv. 6-10

A.  A Blessed Life

B.  A Secure Life

II.  What Wisdom Gives Others, vv. 11-14

A.  Life

B.  Forgiveness

C.  Wisdom

D.  Knowledge

  1. (:6-9)  Effects of Communication on Self

a.  (:6) Blessings vs. Violence

Blessings are on the head of the righteous,

But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

Bruce Waltke: Blessings (berākôt) denote the filling of a person with the potency to reproduce life, to produce wealth, and to overcome enemies. The plural denotes both their quality and quantity (i.e., all sorts of blessings, e.g., childbearing and the increase of herds and crops). Its notion of wealth forms a janus between the preceding unit on wealth and this one on speech. Prudent hands and a prudent mouth produce blessings. . .

Violence [see 3:31] overwhelms essentially means to put violence over the surface of the wicked. . .  The mouth (see 2:6) is a metonymy for their hostile words.  The injurious curses that went forth from their mouths boomerang against them and silence them (cf. Hab. 2:17).

Allen Ross: behind the speech of the wicked is aggressive “violence” (ḥāmās), so they cannot be trusted (McKane, 422).

Lindsay Wilson: The blessings being on the head of the righteous is a way of claiming that the plans, words and thoughts (i.e. what comes from the head) of the righteous lead to success (v. 6a). The focus appears to be on the thoughts that are expressed through words, since the second half of the verse points to the mouth of the wicked. The (dissembling) words of the wicked hide a real intent to tear down and destroy others (ḥāmās, violence, v. 6b).

b.  (:7)  Blessing vs. Putrification

The memory of the righteous is blessed,

But the name of the wicked will rot.

Paul Koptak: Instead of the expected opposite “curse,” the “blessing” of the first colon is contrasted with a name that rots, a vivid description of social shame. Like the human body, reputations can putrefy and then disappear.

Bruce Waltke: In sum, verset A means, “The name of a righteous person is mentioned to invoke a blessing on someone.” By contrast, the fate of selfish, wicked people beyond death matches their worthless lives: both are naught. Their name represents their character and functions; it is not merely a label of identification. In many instances “name” is also the equivalent of memory (cf. Exod. 3:15; Pss. 97:12; 102:12[13]; Hos. 12:5[6]).

Barrow: No spices can so embalm a man, no monument can so preserve his name and memory, as a pious conversation [conduct], whereby God has been honored, and man benefited.  The fame of such a person is in the best judgments far more precious and truly glorious than is the fame of those who have excelled in any other deeds or qualities.

Lindsay Wilson: Contrasting outcomes are in view here. The lasting legacy of the righteous (continuing the blessings of v. 6) is to leave behind a pattern to follow (v. 7a), but the reputation or name of the wicked will decompose rather than endure (v. 7b). . .  The character or reputation of the wicked will not last or be remembered for long, for no-one will seek to emulate such a person.

c.  (:8) Edification vs. Destruction

The wise of heart will receive commands,

But a babbling fool will be thrown down.

Bruce Waltke: Whereas the wise in heart are characterized by continual inner, spiritual growth that leads to wise speech (16:23), the babbling (lit. “lips”) fool despises wisdom and discipline (1:7). The fool is so full of himself that instead of having the capacity to accept wisdom he dangerously prattles out his own “clever opinions,” which are devoid of true wisdom (cf. 10:13) and scorch like fire (cf. 16:27). By his undisciplined words he entangles himself and comes to ruin (yillābēṭ; see Hos. 4:14). . .  The proverb implies that accepting commands reveals that the wise in heart and the prattling fool can be recognized by the fact that they do not obey any commands.

Jonathan Akin: Here is the point, and this is a major theme in Proverbs: If you are the kind of person who loves to hear the sound of your own voice and who speaks more than you listen, then you’re probably a fool. You are probably worshiping the idol of self.

How many of you know people who, when you have a conversation with them, they look like they are not listening to a word you are saying at all but rather are just waiting for you to take a breath so they can speak? They want to tell you their thoughts on things, but they do not want to hear your thoughts at all. Maybe you are that kind of person. If you are the kind of person who loves to talk and cannot receive commands or advice from others, then you are a fool and it will end up hurting you. You will come to ruin. Why? Because if you cannot listen to someone else’s instructions, you will never learn from your own mistakes.

d.  (:9)  Security vs. Exposure

He who walks in integrity walks securely,

But he who perverts his ways will be found out.

Paul Koptak: The Hebrew wordplay can be translated literally, “Who walks right walks safe,” reminding the reader of wisdom’s promises of protection (1:33; 4:6; cf. 3:23–26). The contrast between a walk of integrity and ways that are crooked reminds the reader of the two roads seen so often throughout chapters 1–9. The contrast of final destinations warns against loss of reputation, not the physical danger that a reader might expect. This exposure to social disapproval echoes the judgments of 10:5 and 7. The Hebrew word for “integrity” (tom) is repeated in 10:29, translated as “righteous.”

Charles Bridges: The man of integrity walks under the shield of the Lord’s protection, his providence, and the shadow of his promises.  There will be difficulties, but a deliverance will be provided, just as the Babylonian exiles were delivered through the fire form the infinitely greater danger of apostasy (Daniel 3:21-29).

Tremper Longman: This proverb is an observation on the difference between those who live openly and honestly and those who live deceptively. “Innocence” (tōm, see 2:7) is a relative term in the OT. The point of the verse seems to be that an easy conscience allows one to live life openly and with boldness. The second colon issues a warning to those who live deceptive, evil lives that they pass off as innocent. The warning is that, though they try to hide it, their evil will be found out. They do not have the moral foundation to live with openness and confidence. The proverb does not specify how those who are deceptive will be discovered; it assumes that evil behavior cannot be hidden forever.

  1. (:10)  Damaging Effects of Bad Communication

He who winks the eye causes trouble,

And a babbling fool will be thrown down.

Lindsay Wilson: The image of winking the eye in verse 10a is less clear, but probably involves some secret deal or deceitful conduct (NIV, ‘winks maliciously’ seeks to capture this; it is linked with deceiving in 6:13; 16:30). Such dissembling will cause grief or trouble, probably to others.

Bruce Waltke: The synthetic parallels of v. 10 present as complementary topics two kinds of bad communication: malicious, secretive gestures and prattling chatter. Its predicates assert their damaging effects: pain to others and ruin to the speaker.

Charles Bridges: The intended contrast here is between the man who brings trouble on his fellowmen and the man who brings trouble on himself.  The first is a plague to his neighbor because he is God’s enemy.  And because the fool despises wisdom (1:7), he comes to ruin.

  1. (:11-14)  Effects of Communication on Others

a.  (:11) Life vs. Violence

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,

But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

Bruce Waltke: Flowing well water is particularly precious (cf. Jer. 2:13), and people gather around it. The open, benevolent speech of the righteous is just as necessary for a community, offering everyone abundant life—temporal, intellectual, moral, and spiritual. The right word, spoken at the right time (15:23) and in the right way (15:1; 17:27), supports or corrects a community in a way that promotes its life (10:10b).

b.  (:12)  Strife vs. Harmony

Hatred stirs up strife,

But love covers all transgressions.

Bruce Waltke: Love withdraws the burning wood of gossip (17:9; 26:20–21), but the quarrelsome and hot-tempered fuel the conflict into disastrous proportions, producing still further transgressions (26:21–22). The saying must be held in tension with the truth that a spiritual friend corrects the sinful offender (cf. Lev. 19:17; Prov. 7:6; Gal. 6:1).

Allen Ross: the wicked are motivated by hatred that brings dissension but the righteous by love that is harmonious. Love’s covering wrongs is harmonious with forgiveness (see 1Pe 4:8).

c.  (:13)  Discernment vs. Lack of Understanding

On the lips of the discerning, wisdom is found,

But a rod is for the back of him who lacks understanding.

Paul Koptak: There are two contrasts in this saying, the first between the wisdom that is found on the lips and the punishment that falls on the back, the second between the person who has discernment and the one who lacks judgment (lit., “lacks heart”; cf. 9:4). The proverb joins with those that have come before to point out the pipeline that connects heart and lips (10:6, 8, 10, 11). The person of discernment has wisdom to give from a heart that has stored up knowledge (cf. 2:1–2; 3:1; 4:20–21); the person lacking in heart has nothing to give but only receives punishment. Perhaps the contrast also means to show that the wise understand sound speech while fools only understand punishment (cf. 9:12).

Tremper Longman: The reference to the rod may also indicate the kind of physical punishment that was doled out to those who did not get the lesson (see 13:24; 14:3; 22:8, 15; 23:13, 14; 29:15; and the closely related 26:3).

d.  (:14)  Knowledge vs. Ruin

Wise men store up knowledge,

But with the mouth of the foolish, ruin is at hand.

Charles Bridges: Solomon showed that he deserved the title of “wise man” by the way he used to store up knowledge.  No wonder that wisdom is found on the lips, for “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).  Jerome mentions about his friend Nepotian, “By daily reading and meditating in the sacred volume, he had made his soul a library  of Christ.”  If you store up knowledge when you are young, what a valuable treasure will be accumulated, although it will only be enough to meet the coming trials.  Add something every day to your storehouse.  For lack of sound wisdom the fool only opens himself to his own ruin, for he is in constant rebellion against God.

Lindsay Wilson: Words are powerful forces for either building up or tearing down.


A.  (:15-17) Wisdom and Security

  1. (:15)  Security vs. Poverty

The rich man’s wealth is his fortress,

The ruin of the poor is their poverty.

In other contexts, wealth is viewed from a negative light [so Bruce Waltke: His wealth deceives him into thinking that it provides real security (18:11); seduces him into becoming wise in his own eyes (28:11), a state worse than that of a fool (26:12); and leads him to lord it over the poor (22:7; cf. 2 Sam. 12:1ff.) and to give him harsh replies (18:23)].  But here it seems to be viewed in a positive light.  Both states are in need of God’s saving grace and providential protection.  It would be folly for the rich to trust in their riches and for the poor to despair as being without hope in this world.

Paul Koptak: This proverb is linked with verse 14 by the catchword “ruin” (meḥittah) and by the comparison of the wise who store up knowledge with the rich who store up wealth as fortification. Here the contrast lies in the security wealth provides for the rich with the assault of poverty on the needy. One protects, the other attacks (cf. “ruins” in Ps. 89:40–41); the same is true of wisdom and folly.

Lindsay Wilson: Poverty here is not being morally evaluated, but its effects on the poor are being described. Poverty means that there is no buffer or protection when disaster strikes, and this leads to ruin. This description of the powerlessness of the poor (without moral evaluation) is picked up elsewhere: they are friendless (14:20; 19:7); their pleas are not listened to (18:23); they are dominated by the rich (22:7).

  1. (:16)  Life vs. Punishment

The wages of the righteous is life,

The income of the wicked, punishment.

Paul Koptak: Righteousness can offer some sense of security that ill-gotten wealth cannot; in fact, the income of the wicked leads to disaster. While wealth can protect, that protection becomes a metaphor for the results of righteous action. Only the wages of righteousness can give final security.

Tremper Longman: This verse assumes that both the righteous and the wicked may gain some material substance, but contrasts the value that it has for them. Money in the hand of the righteous person is a positive thing, but money in the hand of a wicked person is a negative thing. The contrast in consequences is interesting and somewhat unexpected. The natural contrast would be between life and death, but here it is between life and sin.

The idea is that the righteous will use it for things that enhance life, whereas the wicked will apply their wealth toward things that harm life. One can think of many examples of the latter, including obsessive gambling, overeating, using prostitutes, or drinking too much. However, there is a purpose why the proverb remains unspecified. It can be any of a number of things. The same is true for the way the wages of the righteous lead toward life. The principle could be illustrated by acts of philanthropy, paying for education that broadens the mind, enrichment programs for one’s children, or, again, any number of things.

  1. (:17)  Heeding Instruction vs. Forsaking Reproof

He is on the path of life who heeds instruction,

But he who forsakes reproof goes astray.

Lindsay Wilson: This is a hinge verse, picking up the ideas of life and sin from verse 16 (where they were connected with character), but now linking them to how people respond to words that instruct and reprove. This picks up the thought of 9:7–9, where a litmus test of whether we have chosen the path of wisdom or that of folly is how we respond to correcting and rebuking (verbs from the same roots as the nouns mûsār and tôkaḥat in v. 17). The way of folly, of rejecting correction, is not only damaging for ourselves, because our words and example also lead others astray (v. 17b; better than ‘goes astray’ . . . ), with others being implied here.

B.  (:18-21) Wisdom and Right Speaking

  1. (:18)  Duplicity and Slander

He who conceals hatred has lying lips,

And he who spreads slander is a fool.

Bruce Waltke: hatred inspires slander informed by innuendoes, half-truths, and facts distorted and exaggerated beyond recognition (cf. 6:17, 19). In other words, this fool spreads slander, concealing his hatred with lying lips.

  1. (:19)  Uncontrolled Speech vs. Controlled Speech

When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable,

But he who restrains his lips is wise.

Paul Koptak: Words are like sheep; the more there are, the better the chances that some will go astray.

Bruce Waltke: Sin is not stopped by multiplying words because sin is a matter of the heart, and, furthermore, when words are multiplied, they cannot be thought through sufficiently and precisely (cf. 29:20). Once released, they cannot readily be negated. By contrast, whoever restrains (ḥōśēk, i.e., exercises self-control to hold them back) is prudent because he has no confidence in himself and knows that the good and effective word is from the LORD (16:1). He also knows the lethal power of rash words.

Tremper Longman: Proverbs consistently teaches that fewer words are better than many words (see also 13:3; 17:28). Words are powerful and should be uttered circumspectly. The more one says, the more problems may arise. The wise person, here called insightful, is one who chooses words very carefully. The time and situation must be right for the words that are spoken. In addition, Proverbs teaches that speech must follow reflection about the impact of one’s words; blurting out an answer is considered total folly (15:28).

  1. (:20)  Valuable vs. Worthless

The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver,

The heart of the wicked is worth little.

Paul Koptak: To be lacking in heart is to lack judgment and character (10:13; cf. 4:23).

  1. (:21)  Nourishing Others vs. Starving Self

The lips of the righteous feed many,

But fools die for lack of understanding.

Paul Koptak: Readers would expect a contrast between wise lips that nourish others and a foolish heart that does not, but as is often the case in these proverbs, the second line highlights the negative consequences that fall back on the fool. The word “nourish” comes with the image of the shepherd who feeds the sheep, contrasted with the fool who cannot even feed himself. The wise speak in a way that benefits others; the fool speaks in a way that leads to his own ruin (cf. 10:10).

Allen Ross: what the righteous say is edifying — it enhances (yir ʿû; “nourishes,” NIV) common life. “Fools” (ʾewîlîm), characterized by a lack of discipline and little wit, ruin their lives and others as well.


Caleb Nelson: God protects His people and gives them delight in doing good and working hard.

I.  God Gives Financial Protection, v. 22

II.  Wisdom’s Delight: Goodness, v. 23

III.  God Gives Protection from Ultimate Disaster, vv. 24-25

IV.  Wisdom’s Delight: Hard Work, v. 26

V.  God Gives a Future, vv. 27-30

A.  (:22) Unmitigated Blessing

It is the blessing of the LORD that makes rich,

And He adds no sorrow to it.

Paul Koptak: The blessing of Yahweh brings wealth that does not come with the trouble that comes with the wealth the wicked obtain.

Charles Bridges: We were told in verse 4 that diligent hands bring wealth.  Here we see that the blessing of the Lord brings wealth.  There is no inconsistency here.  The one notes the primary source of wealth; the other points to the instrumental source of wealth.  Neither can be effective without the other.  The sluggard looks for prosperity without diligence; the atheist looks for prosperity only from being diligent.  The Christian, armed with God’s blessing, is diligent.  This wise combination keeps him active and at the same time humble and dependent on God (John 6:27).

Tremper Longman: The present proverb is an aspect of the truth, not the whole truth. All things being equal, those who are blessed by God, and presumably associated with wisdom, will be rich. After all, the wise are hard workers, not lazy. They do not fritter their wealth away on meaningless luxuries. However, things are not always equal, and injustice (13:23), among other things, can enter the picture. In any case, it is better to be wise, and it is more likely that people will succeed in life if they live in conformity with the way God created the world. The proverb also should lead the godly rich to look not at their own efforts but rather to God for the reason for their well-being.

B.  (:23) Wickedness vs. Wisdom

Doing wickedness is like sport to a fool;

And so is wisdom to a man of understanding.

Tremper Longman: The proverb contrasts what brings pleasure to a fool and to a wise person, here referred to by a closely related word, “competence” (see 2:2). The word “sport” may also be translated “pleasure” or “laughter.” The idea is that doing evil is something that fools actually relish, not something that circumstances force on them.

The proverb suggests that there is something in fools that makes evil a natural outflow of their character, and then it compares this with wisdom in the lives of competent persons. As Murphy (Proverbs, 75) points out, things like justice bring “joy” (simḥâ) to a righteous person (21:15).

C.  (:24)  Fears vs.  Desires

What the wicked fears will come upon him,

And the desire of the righteous will be granted.

Bruce Waltke: This verse nuances v. 23 by affirming that although the fool presently takes pleasure in doing wrong, he suffers from well-founded anxiety and pangs of a bad conscience that hound him to his dire destiny (cf. Gen. 4:13–14). By contrast, the competent person will be fully rewarded for aspiring for that which presently gives him pleasure.

Tremper Longman: This proverb contrasts the wicked and the righteous in terms of what they will get out of life. Everyone has fears and desires, but this verse intends to motivate toward righteous behavior and away from wicked behavior by saying that the wicked will get what they fear and not what they desire, and vice versa for the righteous.

D.  (:25) Vapor vs. Lasting Foundation

When the whirlwind passes, the wicked is no more,

But the righteous has an everlasting foundation.

Allen Ross: Survival in catastrophes of life is reserved for the righteous, for they are properly prepared to meet the real tests of life (Plaut, 132). Matthew 7:24–27 addresses the same point: If people base their lives on temporal values, they must know that they can be quickly swept away.

E.  (:26) Laziness

Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,

So is the lazy one to those who send him.

This is the only one in the series that does not present a righteous / wicked contrast.

Paul Koptak: Read from two different points of view, the proverb sends two slightly different messages. From the perspective of the one sending, wisdom suggests that the sender should consider what is fitting and weigh outcomes when choosing a representative. But the one who is sent should also consider outcomes and determine what kind of messenger one will be. Who, the proverb asks, would choose a sluggard to be a messenger? So diligence in learning wisdom is recommended via a negative example.

Bruce Waltke: Formally v. 26 (cf. 26:1) consists of a double comparison for emphasis. It compares two things vexing and hurtful to the body (10:26a) with that which is frustrating and damaging in social relationships (v. 26b).  The point of the comparison as … so has to be inferred (ka … kēn; cf. v. 23). What acidic vinegar to poor teeth, smoke to eyes, and a sluggard to a sender have in common is unexpected irritation and hurt.

F.  (:27-28) Future Outcomes

  1. Life vs. Death

The fear of the LORD prolongs life,

But the years of the wicked will be shortened.

Tremper Longman: Everything being equal, living in a way that conforms to God’s will results in a longer life. After all, such a one lives in conformity with the way God set the world up at creation. To take one example, the law and wisdom in Proverbs insist that it is God’s desire that sex be enjoyed within the commitment of marriage. The fools who ignore this command bring great danger on their lives, whether from sexually transmitted diseases (known in antiquity) or from the revenge of the other woman’s husband (6:30–35). Though not specified by the proverb, it is also possible that Yahweh himself will cut short the days of the wicked, either through human means or by direct intervention. The purpose of this proverb is to motivate people toward fear of Yahweh. Since all things are not equal and therefore sometimes God-fearers die young, Van Leeuwen perceptively states: “The problem’s ultimate resolution requires a developed view of life after death.”

  1. Gladness vs. Frustration

The hope of the righteous is gladness,

But the expectation of the wicked perishes.

Bruce Waltke: The contrasting destinies of the righteous and the wicked is now expressed in terms of fulfilled versus unfulfilled expectations and hopes, foreshadowing the topic of 11:23–27. Expectation (tôḥelet) designates the action of the verb yḥl (“to wait for,” “to hope for” something better). In Ps. 39:7(8) tôḥelet is parallel with qāwâ, “to hope,” suggesting that there is nothing odd in the Hebrew parallels of “joy” and “perishes.” Of the righteous (ṣaddîqîm), none excepted, qualifies the hope as that which honors God and prospers the community. Its goal, joy (śimḥâ), is a metonymy of result for all future blessings when the righteous triumph over the wicked (cf. 3:34). Śimḥâ denotes being glad or joyful with the whole disposition, as indicated by its association with the heart (cf. Exod. 4:14; Pss. 19:8[9]; 104:15; 105:3) and nepeš (i.e., desire and appetites, Ps. 86:4).

G.  (:29-30) Security

  1. Fortress vs. Vulnerability

The way of the LORD is a stronghold to the upright,

But ruin to the workers of iniquity.

Allen Ross: The “way of the LORD” refers to God’s providential administration of life. Thus divine justice will be security for the righteous and disaster for the wicked.

Lindsay Wilson: The plans of the wicked will die with them rather than come to fruition. Another way of putting this is that God’s purposes and plans (the way [derek] of the Lord, v. 29) will both preserve the blameless and destroy the evildoers. In the light of verse 28, these two types of people are the same as the righteous and the wicked. The stance of the righteous will lead to life and joy; that of the wicked will result in a life cut short and in hopes being dashed.

  1. Permanence vs. Impermanence

The righteous will never be shaken,

But the wicked will not dwell in the land.

Tremper Longman: When negated, the verb “to be shaken” (from môṭ) indicates tremendous security. When one is shaken, it is the result of great trouble. On the other hand, the wicked will live lives of instability. In particular, they will not be allowed to grow roots in the land. The land implied by this statement is, of course, the promised land, Israel. We have seen this threat leveled against the wicked already in 2:21–22 (see also the related thought in 10:25). This proverb draws a relatively rare explicit connection between proverbial wisdom and land theology.  The principle behind this proverb is developed at greater length in Ps. 37.

H.  (:31-32) Speech

Paul Koptak: The last two proverbs of chapter 10 deal with the topic of speech. This final proverb pair in the chapter should be read together, since the second lines of both describe misuse of the tongue and mouth as “perverse” (2:12, 14; 6:14; 8:13; 10:31–32; 16:28, 30). Notice also the contrast between the mouth of the righteous and the mouth of the wicked in 10:31a, 32b.

Lindsay Wilson: The righteous are using speech for its God-given purposes; the wicked twist speech for their own ends. Most importantly, there are set out here great incentives to belong to the righteous rather than be among the wicked.

  1. Wisdom vs. Perversion

The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom,

But the perverted tongue will be cut out.

Bruce Waltke: The speech of the righteous, which is implicitly likened to fruit, is eaten with pleasure and revives whoever feasts on it. The perverse speech of wicked people, by contrast, seeks to overthrow this ethical order upheld by the LORD and expressed by his revealed wisdom (see 2:12; 8:13). Such speech, since it does not conform to Ultimate Reality, is a lie (see 6:24).  The LORD is the Agent who cuts their tongue out, as indicated by the introductory Yahweh sayings (vv. 22, 27; cf. v. 29). He will uphold his government by purging the subversive speech that defiles his good earth, damages the community, and defies his sovereignty.

Tremper Longman: “To be cut off ” is used throughout the Hebrew Bible to refer to punishment for unethical and uncovenantal behavior.

  1. Acceptable vs. Perverted

The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable,

But the mouth of the wicked, what is perverted.

Bruce Waltke: This verse now defines people’s character by the nature of their speech. Seneca, the Roman philosopher of the first century B.C., observed, “Speech is the index of the mind.”