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A.  (:16-17) Avoids Calamity

  1. (:16)  Cautious vs. Reckless

A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil,

But a fool is arrogant and careless.

Paul Koptak: Verses 16–17 are linked by images of hair-trigger temper and folly. . .

Matthew Henry:

  1. Holy fear is an excellent guard upon every holy thing, and against every thing that is unholy. It is wisdom to depart from evil, from the evil of sin, and thereby from all other evil; and therefore it is wisdom to fear, that is, to be jealous over ourselves with a godly jealousy, to keep up a dread of God’s wrath, to be afraid of coming near the borders of sin or dallying with the beginnings of it. A wise man, for fear of harm, keeps out of harm’s way, and starts back in a fright when he finds himself entering into temptation.
  2. Presumption is folly. He who, when he is warned of his danger, rages and is confident, furiously pushes on, cannot bear to be checked, bids defiance to the wrath and curse of God, and, fearless of danger, persists in his rebellion, makes bold with the occasions of sin, and plays upon the precipice, he is a fool, for he acts against his reason and his interest, and his ruin will quickly be the proof of his folly.

Charles Bridges: A wise man fears the Lord and shuns evil, but a fool is hotheaded and reckless.  Fear is sometimes though to be an unmanly principle.  But look at the dreadful extent of the evil that should be shunned.  On the outside it is vanity and disappointment.  On the inside it is the sting of guilt.  So, to shun this evil – yes, to fear it – is true wisdom.

The fool, however, stout and stubborn in his mind, never fears until he falls.  The voice of God is unheard in the middle of passion.  He is “carried by his rash will and blind passion without understanding the end of things” (Diodati).  He is hotheaded and reckless.  Such a fool was Rehoboam when his self-willed confidence rejected the counsel of wisdom and experience (1 Kings 12:13-15).

George Mylne: Fools despise the threatenings of the Bible. They are filled with rage at those providences and reprovers which would check them in their course of sin but their confidence is daring presumption, which hurries them on to those courses that end in despair. If you would set everlasting burnings before them they will yet rush on in sin. But their haughty spirits will be tamed when they shall cry to the rocks and mountains to fall on them, and hide them from the face of the Lamb.

  1. (:17)  Rash Foolishness vs. Premeditated Evil

A quick-tempered man acts foolishly,

And a man of evil devices is hated.

Paul Koptak: The comparison here is between one who does foolish things on impulse and one who does evil that has been carefully planned and premeditated, a product of scheming. Both ends of the temperament spectrum lead to bad ends. The intended message of the contrast may be that as bad as rash and foolish behavior is, it can be forgiven more easily than premeditated wrong.

Bruce Waltke: The hot-tempered one commits folly, a singular collective denoting many specific deeds and consequences that are done to harm others and prompted by moral insolence (see 5:23; 14:1, 8). Hotheads are undisciplined, out of control, unpredictable, and overreact. Sages viewed anger negatively: as cruel (27:4), factious (30:33), and needing to be calmed (15:1; 29:8, 11). Johnson says, “The ideal of wisdom is the quiet man who does not err in anger, or as 17:27 puts it, is ‘a calm and understanding man.’”  Schemers, by contrast, methodically plot and carry out their ruthless plans. They are hated, a metonymy for their rejection and elimination by God and/or the community.

Tremper Longman: Perhaps there is a connection with the previous verse in the fact that the fool is one who gets easily angered. In any case, those who are quick to throw a temper tantrum also act impulsively and then do stupid, thoughtless things, which get them into trouble. However, the second colon intensifies the thought of the first line. It is one thing to be short-tempered and do stupid things; it is even worse if one commits evil acts after long reflection and planning. That is the meaning of “scheme” (mĕzimmôt) here. The word “scheming” is from mĕzimmâ. This word can have either a positive or negative meaning. In 2:11 we saw that it has the positive sense of “discretion,” but here it is the negative idea of “scheming.” The basic idea is, as Fox has pointed out, “private, unrevealed thought, often but not always used in scheming. As the ability to think for oneself and keep one’s own counsel, it is especially valuable in withstanding temptation.”  Here it is negative, as in 12:2, where the schemer is contrasted with the good person. The latter obtains God’s favor, while God condemns the schemer.

B.  (:18) Crowned with Knowledge

The naive inherit folly,

But the prudent are crowned with knowledge.

Paul Koptak: In both lines of the saying, the rewards not only correspond to the qualities of “folly” and “prudence,” they foster and nurture them.

Bruce Waltke: Their internalization of wisdom enables them to evade danger (see v. 16) and to win dominion and dignity.

Matthew Henry: Wisdom is the honour of the wise: The prudent crown themselves with knowledge, they look upon it as their brightest ornament, and there is nothing they are so ambitious of; they bind it to their heads as a crown, which they will by no means part with; they press towards the top and perfection of knowledge, which will crown their beginnings and progress. They shall have the praise of it; wise heads shall be respected as if they were crowned heads. They crown knowledge (so some read it); they are a credit to their profession. Wisdom is not only justified, but glorified, of all her children.

Tremper Longman: Simplemindedness produces stupidity. On the other hand, the prudent wear knowledge as an ornament: the prudent are clearly recognized and honored for their knowledge.

Richard Clifford: It is impossible that the inner quality of a person not be revealed. In this saying the inner quality of the simple and the clever are on display like clothing and jewelry. The righteous wear a crown, which is a good thing in Proverbs. It is a sign of God’s blessing as a good wife for her husband (12:4), gray hair for the righteous (16:31), and grandchildren for the elderly (17:6).

C.  (:19) Rules over the Wicked

The evil will bow down before the good,

And the wicked at the gates of the righteous.

George Mylne: Wicked men follow courses which have a tendency in their own nature, and by the appointment of God, to bring them to a state of slavery and dependence.

Godly men, through the blessing of God on their virtue and industry, are often placed in circumstances that enable them to relieve the wretched and unhappy, so that their favor is humbly courted by those who once despised them.


A.  (:20-21) Genuine Relationships

  1. (:20)  Superficial Friendship Based on Economic Status

The poor is hated even by his neighbor,

But those who love the rich are many.

Paul Koptak: Verses 20 and 21 are linked by the repetition of the word “neighbor” and the theme of the “poor” and “needy.” When read together, the main contrast is between the self-interested love shown to the rich and the selfless kindness shown to the poor. The contrast in verse 20 points up the inequity; the poor who need friends have none, while those who need little have many. This sharp critique is heightened by the use of the word “neighbor.” In ancient Israel, neighbor love included leaving the edges of one’s field for gleaning, honest and just dealing, and correction (Lev. 19:9–19). Jesus called anyone who has need a deserving “neighbor” (Luke 10:25–37).

Allen Ross: Possessions determine popularity. This is just a statement of the reality of life. The poor are avoided and shunned (yiśśānē ʾ, lit., “hated”) as useless by their neighbors, but “the lovers of the rich are many” (lit. trans.).

Matthew Henry: There is little friendship in the world but what is governed by self-interest, which is no true friendship at all, nor what a wise man will either value himself on or put any confidence in. Those that make the world their God idolize those that have most of its good things, and seek their favour as if indeed they were Heaven’s favourites.

George Mylne: Our love to our neighbor deserves not the name, if it is founded only upon his riches. Poverty, or distress, instead of diminishing our love to them, ought to draw it forth into action. It is base to profess love to people in the time of their prosperity, and to be cold to them in the day of their distress. All men censure Job’s friends for behaving harshly to him at a time when they could not show too much tenderness and compassion.

The rich has many friends but little reason to place much confidence in many of them. They are generally not friends to himself but to his money and his table. Let him wear rags, and live on bread and water and he will find who are his real friends.

Let us test our love to our neighbors, for there is much hypocrisy in men’s regard to their fellow-creatures, as well as in that respect which they show to their Maker. Sincere love to Christ cleaves to him, whether religion is well or ill spoken of; and true love to our neighbors is the same, whether they are in adverse or prosperous circumstances and love appears most when there is most need to reveal it.

The poor need not be discouraged because their friends have forsaken them. It is not true that their friends have forsaken them, if they have given them no other reason for it than becoming poor. They were not real friends, but dissemblers and it is no loss to know their insincerity.

  1. (:21)  Genuine Compassion for the Poor

He who despises his neighbor sins,

But happy is he who is gracious to the poor.

Paul Koptak: The implicit point of 14:20 is spelled out here, that it is “sin” to “despise” one’s “neighbor” by failing to help in time of need (the word “despise” is used in 14:2 for rejecting Yahweh and his way).

Allen Ross: Despising (bāzâ) means treating with contempt, discarding one as worthless. To ignore a neighbor in this coldhearted fashion is just as much a sin as showing favor to the poor is an act of righteousness.

Bruce Waltke: By vilifying one’s neighbor, one is in violation of God’s standards. By contrast, those who show favor to the poor denotes those who esteem their neighbors and so accept them and act kindly toward them. Such freely given favor implies piety, mercy, and generosity, not preferential treatment. The laudatory exclamation blessed are they (see 3:13; 8:32, 34) holds up the benevolent as exemplars of a right relationship with I AM now and joy in the future.

Charles Bridges: But how happy is the man who is kind to the needy.  “He shall be happy beyond expression” (Stott).  Does not every act of love enlarge our own happiness?  Do we not ourselves richly feed on the bread with which we feed the hungry?  And will not the great day declare and honor every act of love that we have done for our divine Master?

B.  (:22) Pathway of Kindness and Truth

Will they not go astray who devise evil?

But kindness and truth will be to those who devise good.

Paul Koptak: Those who plan evil are rewarded with going astray (cf. 7:25; 10:17; 12:26), so it is better to plan for good and enjoy its return in love and faithfulness.

Charles Bridges: Love is the fountainhead, faithfulness the pledge and fulfillment of unchangeable mercy.

Tremper Longman: This is a proverb about consequences. It contrasts the end result of planning evil and planning good. Evil planners are not rooted in anything but, rather, wander aimlessly. The verb “wander aimlessly” (tʿh) may have been chosen in order to allude to the “path theology” that runs throughout the book, especially the first part. The rhetorical question presupposes a positive answer. On the other hand, those who plan good things receive good things. “Covenant love and faithfulness” (ḥesed weʾĕmet) is a frequent word pair. In many contexts, they describe the quality of God’s relationship toward his creatures. He is faithful to protect them and love them. But they are also characteristics of the community of God’s people. Those who plan good things receive the benefits and goodwill of others of like attitude.

C.  (:23-24) Value of Diligence

Paul Koptak: Verses 23–25 are linked by a theme; work brings wealth and even saves life, while mere talk or foolish talk only produces more of the same.

  1. (:23)  Fruit of Hard Work

In all labor there is profit,

But mere talk leads only to poverty.

Paul Koptak: In 14:23 the contrast of mere talk and effort (with overtones of toil and sorrow; cf. ʾeṣeb in 10:22) is that of intention and follow through, emptiness and payoff.

Bruce Waltke: This antithetical proverb fleshes out the “planners of good” as those who through hard, honest work are rewarded with material and circumstantial gains (cf. 10:4–5; Isa. 49:4; Heb. 6:10; cf. John 6:27). In qualifies the area of profitability as all kinds of strenuous work. There is profit (môtār; lit. “what is left over”) signifies the axioms that within God’s common grace and created order one gains more from an endeavor than what one expends in it and that the profit is realized in the future, upon completion of the work. So, people live by faith in that hope. By contrast, mere empty talk (lit. “but words of lips”; cf. 2 Kgs. 18:20 for the meaning of this idiom) [leads] only to deprivation and death. Metaphoric “leads … to” suggests a journey leading to a goal. “Only” highlights the unexpected destination of scarcity (maḥsôr; see 6:32; 11:24), the state of lacking basic necessities.

Matthew Henry:

  1. Working, without talking, will make men rich: In all labour of the head, or of the hand, there is profit; it will turn to some good account or other. Industrious people are generally thriving people, and where there is something done there is something to be had. The stirring hand gets a penny. It is good therefore to keep in business, and to keep in action, and what our hand finds to do to do it with all our might.
  2. Talking, without working, will make men poor. Those that love to boast of their business and make a noise about it, and that waste their time in tittle-tattle, in telling and hearing new things, like the Athenians, and, under pretence of improving themselves by conversation, neglect the work of their place and day, they waste what they have, and the course they take tends to penury, and will end in it. It is true in the affairs of our souls; those that take pains in the service of God, that strive earnestly in prayer, will find profit in it. But if men’s religion runs all out in talk and noise, and their praying is only the labour of the lips, they will be spiritually poor, and come to nothing.

George Mylne: Men must not, however, expect success in their labor without the blessing of God; and therefore, to industry must be added a dependence on God’s providence, a due regard to the service of God, and a disposition to contribute a proper proportion of the fruit of their labors to pious and charitable uses. Otherwise God may blast their labors in righteous judgment, and then no diligence in business can be a security against poverty.

  1. (:24)  Blessing of Prosperity

The crown of the wise is their riches,

But the folly of fools is foolishness.

Charles Bridges: Wealth is the crown . . . of the wise, but it cannot hide fools.  It only makes their folly more apparent.  Since it is wasted on their selfish gratification, it is not their crown but their folly.  So whatever our talents are, let us use them for eternity; then they will be our everlasting crown.

Matthew Henry:

  1. If men be wise and good, riches make them so much the more honourable and useful: The crown of the wise is their riches; their riches make them to be so much the more respected, and give them the more authority and influence upon others. Those that have wealth, and wisdom to use it, will have a great opportunity of honouring God and doing good in the world. Wisdom is good without an inheritance, but better with it.
  2. If men be wicked and corrupt, their wealth will but the more expose them: The foolishness of fools, put them in what condition you will, is folly, and will show itself and shame them; if they have riches, they do mischief with them and are the more hardened in their foolish practices.

Lindsay Wilson: The folly of fools (v. 24b) refers to talking but not working, and this will result in the person being shown to be a fool. Those who have worked hard will have their wealth to show, and this will be outward evidence of their wise choices. Given the idea of retribution in the book, their resulting wealth is a testimony to their wisdom. The image of crown implies a status visible to others, and recalls verse 18 (also 4:9).

D.  (:25) Value of Truthfulness

A truthful witness saves lives,

But he who speaks lies is treacherous.

Matthew Henry: How little regard is to be had to a false witness. He forges lies, and yet pours them out with the greatest assurance imaginable for the destruction of the innocent. It is therefore the interest of a nation by all means possible to detect and punish false-witness-bearing, yea, and lying in common conversation; for truth is the cement of society.


Lindsay Wilson: There is less overall structure in the rest of this chapter, with only occasional pairings such as the fear of the Lord sayings in verses 26 and 27.

A.  (:26) Confidence and Legacy

In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence,

And his children will have refuge.

Allen Ross: Exodus 20:5–6 declares that children will reap the benefits of righteous parents if they also love the Lord; parents who fear the Lord will be a refuge for their children.

Charles Bridges: He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge.  The true fear of God is a holy, happy, reverential principle.  It is not the fear that throws out love, but that which brings love in.  It is reverence tempered with love.  We fear because we love.  We fear, yet are not afraid.  The holiest and the humblest is the most steady and trusting heart.  The fear of man saps our strength; but the fear of God, such is the Christian paradox, makes us bold.  Its childlike spirit shuts out all terrors of conscience, all forebodings of eternity.

Matthew Henry: The fear of the Lord is here put for all gracious principles, producing gracious practices.

  1. Where this reigns it produces a holy security and serenity of mind. There is in it a strong confidence; it enables a man still to hold fast both his purity and his peace, whatever happens, and gives him boldness before God and the world. I know that I shall be justified—None of these things move me; such is the language of this confidence.
  2. It entails a blessing upon posterity. The children of those that by faith make God their confidence shall be encouraged by the promise that God will be a God to believers and to their seed to flee to him as their refuge, and they shall find shelter in him.

B.  (:27) Life and Protection

The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life,

That one may avoid the snares of death.

Charles Bridges: How bright is this divine principle.  It is full of life – temporal life, spiritual life, and eternal life.  It is the effect of the heavenly Comforter who produces water welling up to eternal life (John 4:14).  It is not only a refuge from the snares of death, but a fountain of life.  Among the countless redeemed, no one finds cover from condemnation who has not been made alive with spiritual life.  This invaluable grace flows with the full streams of gospel blessing.


Paul Koptak: Two sayings about the king form the outer edges of what may be a chiasm:

A  v. 28 King’s glory

B  v. 29 Exalt [root rwm] folly

C  v. 30 Heart at peace gives life

D  vv. 31–32 Sayings on treatment and reward

C′  v. 33 Heart a home for wisdom

B′  v. 34 Exalt [root rwm] a nation

A′  v. 35 King’s delight

Of special interest is the appearance of royal proverbs, for each of the sayings in this section can apply to the responsibilities of monarch and the character qualities that are required.

A.  (:28) King’s Glory vs. Ruin

In a multitude of people is a king’s glory,

But in the dearth of people is a prince’s ruin.

Paul Koptak: The larger the kingdom, the larger the wealth and status.

Bruce Waltke: The proverb implicitly encourages the disciple to be a competent person who attracts people, not a fool whom people desert.

Matthew Henry: It is therefore the wisdom of princes, by a mild and gentle government, by encouraging trade and husbandry, and by making all easy under them, to promote the increase of their people.

Ernest Lucas: A Royal Proverb

This proverb seems a banal statement of the obvious, that the reputation of a kingdom is related to its size and resources, of which the population is an important element. However, in a world where the emphasis was usually on the dependence of the people on the king (e.g. 1 Sam. 8:4-5; 2 Sam. 2:7; Lam. 4:20) it provides a different perspective.

B.  (:29-30) Danger of Uncontrolled Emotions

  1. (:29) Temper Tantrums Exalt Folly

He who is slow to anger has great understanding,

But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.

Paul Koptak: If it is hard to believe that one displays wisdom by holding one’s temper, the reverse picture of uncontrolled anger is certainly convincing.

Allen Ross: The one who is patient has “great understanding”; the one who has a quick temper (qeṣar-rûaḥ; lit., “hasty of spirit”) exalts folly, i.e., he brings it to a full measure. So one should cultivate understanding.

Matthew Henry:

  1. Meekness is wisdom. He rightly understands himself, and his duty and interest, the infirmities of human nature, and the constitution of human society, who is slow to anger,and knows how to excuse the faults of others as well as his own, how to adjourn his resentments, and moderate them, so as by no provocation to be put out of the possession of his own soul. A mild patient man is really to be accounted an intelligent man, one that learns of Christ, who is Wisdom itself.
  2. Unbridled passion is folly proclaimed: He that is hasty of spirit, whose heart is tinder to every spark of provocation, that is all fire and tow, as we say, he thinks hereby to magnify himself and make those about stand in awe of him, whereas really he exalts his own folly; he makes it known, as that which is lifted up is visible to all, and he submits himself to it as to the government of one that is exalted.

Tremper Longman: The ability to control one’s emotions and express them at the right time and to the appropriate degree is an important aspect of wisdom. To act impulsively, without reflection, leads to “stupidity,” a close associate of “folly.” Fox defines “competence” (tĕbûnâ, a nominal formed from byn; see also 2:2) as “the pragmatic, applied aspect of thought, operating in the realm of action; it aims at efficacy and accomplishment.”

George Mylne: A philosopher advised Augustus Caesar, when he felt himself angry, to say nothing until he had taken time to repeat all the letters of the Greek alphabet. When we find ourselves provoked, let us check our passions, until we are able, with greater coolness than Jonah, to answer that question, “Do you do well to be angry?”

  1. (:30) Peaceful Heart Gives Life

A tranquil heart is life to the body,

But passion is rottenness to the bones.

Paul Koptak: Given the picture of the interior life offered in earlier proverbs about the heart (14:10, 13), it appears that the ancients knew that jealousy, passion, and envy eat one from the inside out, thus rotting the bones (cf. 6:34; 27:4).

Allen Ross: The word qinʾâ (“envy”; GK 7863) describes passionate zeal, a violent excitement that is never satisfied. One who is “consumed with envy” has no tranquility.

Bruce Waltke: The second proverb of the pair escalates the endorsement of patience by highlighting its psychosomatic benefits. Serenity saves; pique kills. A calm heart is life—physical life, in contrast to physical death, as shown by the qualifier in the entire body (see 4:22; 5:11). But hot passion is rot in the bones, a condition that deteriorates to death. “Body” and “bones” refer to both the physical and psycho-spiritual aspects of human nature (cf. 12:4). Inward turmoil from a resentful mind that is self-centered and narcissistic is like bone cancer that rots the framework of the body and shortens a person’s life (cf. Sir. 30:24).

Tremper Longman: The first colon states that an emotionally healthy person enjoys physical well-being; the second colon observes that psychological turmoil results in physical illness. The “heart,” after all, is roughly equivalent to one’s core personality, including emotions (see 3:1).  A coolheaded person, an emotionally intelligent person, enjoys “life in the body.” The latter term (from bāśār) focuses on the physical aspect of human existence. On the other hand, jealousy is an emotion that can destroy one’s inner peace and have a physical effect. Murphy rightly points out that the association of jealousy with rot in the bones well indicates the nature of jealousy, which “eats away at a person.”

C.  (:31-32) Conduct Linked to Reward

  1. (:31) Oppression vs. Graciousness

He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker,

But he who is gracious to the needy honors Him.

Paul Koptak: Mistreatment of the poor is equal to insulting the one who made them and cares for them. To honor the poor is to honor God, and this may be the “plan for good” of 14:22. To insult God is similar to “despising” him (cf. 14:2). Reading them together, we surmise that it is the absence of fear of Yahweh that gives a person the temerity to oppress the poor whom God loves. A similar idea appears in 17:5.

Charles Bridges: Are not the poor, no less than the rich, created in God’s image?  Both meet before their Maker.  Both have the same nature in their hearts.  Both sink to the same humiliating level in death.  Both rise to the same eminence of immortality.  Besides, do not the poor have a special interest in the Gospel?  Was not the Gospel first spread by the Poor?  Has not the voluntary poverty of the Son of God for us elevated such a lowly condition to the highest level?  So what grounds are left that we should oppress the poor as if they were inferior to us?  If we do this, we are guilty of showing contempt for their Maker (see 17:5).  We must not only refrain from oppressing the poor – we must have mercy on them.

  1. (:32) Wicked vs. Righteous

The wicked is thrust down by his wrongdoing,

But the righteous has a refuge when he dies.

D.  (:33) Wise Heart Reflects Understanding

Wisdom rests in the heart of one who has understanding,

But in the bosom of fools it is made known.

Allen Ross: The greatest amount of wisdom resides with those who have discernment. The second colon is a little difficult. It is normally translated as in the NIV: “even among fools she lets herself be known.” This may be ironic or sarcastic: the fool, anxious to appear wise, blurts out what he thinks is wisdom but in the process turns it to folly.

Matthew Henry:

  1. Modesty is the badge of wisdom. He that is truly wise hides his treasure, so as not to boast of it (Mt. 13:44), though he does not hide his talent, so as not to trade with it. His wisdom rests in his heart; he digests what he knows, and has it ready to him, but does not unseasonably talk of it and make a noise with it. The heart is the seat of the affections, and there wisdom must rest in the practical love of it, and not swim in the head.
  2. Openness and ostentation are a mark of folly. If fools have a little smattering of knowledge, they take all occasions, though very foreign, to produce it, and bring it in by head and shoulders. Or the folly that is in the midst of fools is made known by their forwardness to talk. Many a foolish man takes more pains to show his folly than a wise man thinks it worth his while to take to show his wisdom.

E.  Nations and Kings

  1. (:34) Righteousness Exalts a Nation

Righteousness exalts a nation,

But sin is a disgrace to any people.

Bruce Waltke: The contrasting subjects of righteousness and sin (see 1:10; 5:22; 10:16) implicitly admonishes a nation to conform to God’s moral standards in dealing with the citizenry. The predicates give the reason. The former exalts (see 4:8; 14:29) a nation; the latter is a condemnation (see the translation notes), implying subjugation, enmity, and scarcity to peoples. This lesson is applied to Israel in particular (cf. Deut. 28:1–14, 15–68; Amos 1–2; etc.). Ultimately, a nation’s exaltation depends on its piety and ethics, not on its political, military, or economic might.

Charles Bridges: If it is not beneath the dignity of statesmen to learn form the Bible, let them deeply ponder this sound political maxim, which commends itself to every instinct of the unsophisticated mind.  Indeed, it would be a strange anomaly in God’s order of the world if the link between godliness and prosperity, ungodliness and misery, established in individual cases, should not hold true in nations as it is for individuals.  The annals of the chosen people, depending on whether they were a righteous or a sinful nation,, are marked by corresponding exaltation or reproach.

Matthew Henry:

  1. Justice, reigning in a nation, puts an honour upon it. A righteous administration of the government, impartial equity between man and man, public countenance given to religion, the general practice and profession of virtue, the protecting and preserving of virtuous men, charity and compassion to strangers (alms are sometimes called righteousness), these exalt a nation; they uphold the throne, elevate the people’s minds, and qualify a nation for the favour of God, which will make them high, as a holy nation, Deu. 26:19.
  2. Vice, reigning in a nation, puts disgrace upon it: Sin is a reproach to any city or kingdom, and renders them despicable among their neighbours. The people of Israel were often instances of both parts of this observation; they were great when they were good, but when they forsook God all about them insulted them and trampled on them. It is therefore the interest and duty of princes to use their power for the suppression of vice and support of virtue.

Richard Clifford: In evaluating a nation or people, one ordinarily considers its territorial extent, wealth, history, and military might. This verse affirms that the key factors in assessing a people are “righteousness,” that is, being in right relationship to God.

  1. (:35) King’s Favor vs. Anger

The king’s favor is toward a servant who acts wisely,

But his anger is toward him who acts shamefully.

Lindsay Wilson: Verse 35 picks up a number of themes from the preceding two verses: dealing wisely, acting shamefully and the setting of a nation under a king. The advice, directed to a servant of the king, is to act wisely. This would involve having wisdom in one’s heart, and living it out in righteousness. By way of contrast, the one who acts shamefully, whose sin would bring reproach on the people, will experience the king’s wrath. The way to live in community is to be a person grounded in wisdom and living in righteous relationships.

Paul Koptak: This proverb implies that a good kingdom requires good citizens, righteous people, and prudent servants. Both king and citizenry can profit from this counsel. A king will want to choose wise counselors, not merely those who flatter and say what the king hopes to hear. A people may wish for good character qualities in their leaders, but they ought to hold themselves to the same high standards.

Bruce Waltke: The proverb admonishes the king to promote competence, loyalty, and efficiency in governing and not to tolerate mismanagement and corruption (cf. 16:13, 15; 19:12). It also admonishes officials to be competent and conscientious in their actions and to prepare for promotion by eschewing scandal and criticism.

Allen Ross: A servant’s competence affects a king’s attitude toward him. The wise servant is a delight, for he is the skillful, clever one (maśkîl); but the incompetent one (mēbîš; “shameful,” NIV) is the bungler who botches the king’s business and whose indiscretions and incapacity expose his master to scandal and criticism (McKane, 470).