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A.  (:1) Soft vs. Harsh Words

A gentle answer turns away wrath,

But a harsh word stirs up anger.

Paul Koptak: The Bible has many examples; Nabal’s inhospitality and Abigail’s appeal is probably the most famous (1 Sam. 25:1–35). However, the gentle answer is not weak; a soft tongue is powerful enough to break bones (Prov. 25:15).

Allen Ross: The way one answers another person will have an effect on the response. This antithetical proverb stresses that it is wise to use a gentle answer to turn away wrath. More than merely gentle or soft, the idea seems to be conciliatory, i.e., an answer that restores good temper and reasonableness (McKane, 477). To use a “harsh” (ʿeṣeb) word is to cause pain (same Hebrew word) and bring an angry response.

Bruce Waltke: This verse is a helpful sequel to 14:35. Anger begets anger. The antithetical parallels imply that the disciple, servant, or king has the emotional restraint to give a gentle (or “tender”; see 4:3) answer that in both substance and style mollifies the listener (Job 32:3; Prov. 25:5). This measured reaction to an opponent, without compromising truth, turns back wrath and restores the adversary. But a painful word that inflicts psychic pain stirs up anger. “Wrath” in verset A refers to anger’s inner emotional incitement, “anger” in verset B to its outward expression. LXX underscores this danger of anger by adding to the proverb’s beginning: “Anger slays even the wise” (cf. Eccl. 10:4). Soft speech is like oil on bruised skin that softens and heals it (Judg. 8:1–3); harsh speech is like oil tossed on fire (cf. 1 Kgs. 12:1–16).

Tremper Longman: This proverb fits in with the general teaching in Proverbs that coolheadedness is superior to hotheadedness. This proverb also illustrates the book’s concern for social cohesion. The proper response is one that maintains and promotes relationship.

George Mylne: Anger is a temporary madness, and when two mad people are engaged, they both are in danger or receiving deadly wounds. Let us, therefore, endeavor to bridle our passions, and guard ourselves by the meekness of wisdom from the fierce passions of other men lest, by biting and devouring one another, we be consumed one of another.

B.  (:2) Knowledge vs. Folly

The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable,

But the mouth of fools spouts folly.

Paul Koptak: We rarely use the word “gushes” for something good, whether we are speaking of blood or emotion, and this is also true when we are talking about folly. The image compares speech to water or some other rushing liquid—too much spouting out too quickly, neither controlled nor contained. Knowledge, by contrast, is (lit.) “made good” by the tongue of the wise, perhaps by taking the time and effort to make it attractive; when it comes out, its product is worth keeping. It comes out in moderation, not excess, so that nothing is lost.

Lindsay Wilson: Our speech is an indicator of our character, for what we are like on the inside (wise or foolish) determines what emerges in our speech. Folly pours out of the mouth of a fool, but the speech of a character shaped by wisdom adds something positive. It increases, contributes to or commends (esv) knowledge.

Bruce Waltke: The wise, whose tongues are controlled by love and saturated with knowledge, speak their wisdom in a way that attracts listeners. Instead of brutalizing and so repelling people with their knowledge, the wise state it kindly and tactfully, always aiming to save their audience, not to condemn and destroy it. By contrast, the mouth of uncontrolled fools gushes forth naked folly, an abstraction of their morally insolent speech that destroys individuals and the community.

George Mylne: The wise man knows when he ought to be silent and when he should speak. He will not cast his pearls before swine, and give his holy things to dogs. His words are good, for they are spoken in due season, and he knows how to address himself in a proper manner to different people, according to their tempers and circumstances.


A.  (:3) Accountability before the Watching Lord

The eyes of the LORD are in every place,

Watching the evil and the good.

Bruce Waltke: Watching [vigilantly], a communicable attribute, carries the nuance “evaluating” and implies that he will act appropriately (Gen. 31:49; Job 15:22; Ps. 66:7), in accordance with whether evil people, who destroy society, or good people, who nurture it, are under review. In this way, the unseen but not unseeing God regulates history and guarantees the moral order (see 5:23; cf. 15:11; 16:2; 17:3; 21:2; 24:12; cf. 20:17).

Tremper Longman: As Van Leeuwen observes, “This verse states a fundamental precept of biblical thought, that the Lord knows all things, including the human heart.”  This verse supports the idea that God is omnipresent and omniscient.

George Mylne: His eyes behold the godly also and this is their great consolation when they are overlooked or poorly treated by men. God knows their integrity, and beholds with a pleasant countenance their humble and sincere endeavors to please Him, and to do good to men. Every thought of His name, and every good word that they speak is written by Him in a book of remembrance. He beholds all their secret sorrows with an eye of pity, and puts their tears in his bottle! Not a moment does He withdraw His eye from the righteous.

B.  (:4) Healing vs. Damaging Speech

A soothing tongue is a tree of life,

But perversion in it crushes the spirit.

Paul Koptak: Speech that does damage is deceitful; by implication, then, speech that heals is truthful. One is a “tree of life,” the other is literally twisted like a crooked branch.

Allen Ross: The teaching here affirms that healing words bring life to the spirit but perverse words crush the spirit. The Greek has iasis for marpē ʾ, thus giving the idea of therapy. This thought fits well with the image of the tree of life, which signifies a source of vitality to others (see McKane, 483). The contrast is the perverse, twisted, or “deceitful” (selep) words that crush the spirit (cf. Isa 65:14).

Bruce Waltke: The proverb implies that the tongue of good people can heal the hurt spirit caused by the twisted tongue of the perverse (cf. Isa. 50:4; cf. Eph. 4:25).

George Mylne: The tongue that administers proper and seasonable counsels, comforts, and reproofs is a healing tongue. Unmerited rebukes, reproaches, unkind words, and cruel mockings are perverseness in that little member, which boasts and can really effect great things.

The advantages derived from a healing tongue are like the fruits of the tree of life the erring are reclaimed, the dejected are comforted, the weak are animated and invigorated by it.

When Job weak in deep distress, he was very sensible how pleasant these fruits were, which he had no opportunity to taste, and tells his friends, that if they had been in his situation, he would have strengthened them by his words, and assuaged their grief by their speech.

The words of God have a divine virtue for healing the diseases and the wounds of the spirit. This is the dispensary from which we are to derive healing words for the broken in spirit.

But perverseness in the tongue crushes the spirit. It wounds and pierces, it breaks and bruises, the heart of him who is reproached by it.

C.  (:5) Proper Response to Discipline

A fool rejects his father’s discipline,

But he who regards reproof is prudent.

Allen Ross: How well one responds to discipline reveals character. The contrast here is between the fool who spurns it and the prudent individual who heeds it. The latter shows good sense (see also v.20; 13:1, 18).

Bruce Waltke: This proverb motivates the youth to internalize the parents’ instruction (see 1:8) by labelling whoever rejects it a fool and whoever heeds it prudent.

George Mylne: A father’s instruction proceeds from love, and it is folly and ingratitude to despise it. Yet some children are such enemies to themselves, and so unnatural to their best friends, that they break the hearts of their affectionate parents, by spurning those admonitions that are needful for their own welfare. They are like froward patients, who are angry at the physician for giving them medicines which are beneficial but taste bitter.

In a father’s instructions there is authority. The authority of parents over their children has been acknowledged by the heathen nations and is ratified in that law which was spoken by the mouth, and written by the finger of God. When they reprove their children, the authority of God is joined to the authority of parents, to enforce their admonitions. For they are expressly required to attempt the reformation of their children by rebukes and corrections.

He who despises his father’s reproofs; despises not only man but God! This is folly in the extreme, and he who was a fool before he received instruction, becomes mad when be resists it! If a fool despises his father’s instruction, it is not to be supposed that he will pay much regard to the admonitions of other men but a prudent man will receive correction, and be thankful for it, not only from a father but from any person, though inferior to himself in station or wisdom.

D.  (:6) Righteous Wealth vs. Wicked Troubles

Much wealth is in the house of the righteous,

But trouble is in the income of the wicked.

Bruce Waltke: This proverb ramps-up the motive to be righteous, not wicked, by contrasting the profit of righteousness with the loss of wickedness. It motivates the disciple by picturing the house, the locus of the righteous person, as a great store of wealth, a metaphor for a house brimming with good things (cf. Jer. 20:5). Such abundance is necessary so that the righteous can help others.

George Mylne: When godly men have nothing they possess all things. When wicked men have much they are in straits, for their craving desires are still larger than their possessions. And whatever they have, they lack satisfaction, and are still crying, “Give, give!” They have, besides, a bad conscience and a drop of that bitter ingredient is sufficient swallow up an ocean of earthly delights.

E.  (:7) Priority of Edification

The lips of the wise spread knowledge,

But the hearts of fools are not so.

Bruce Waltke: Knowledge is foundational to storing up wealth since providing for people’s physical needs is temporary; making them self-sufficient is the goal. In both respects, righteous and wise people stand in sharp contrast to the wicked and fools.

Tremper Longman: The parallel between lips or tongue and heart is found elsewhere in proverbs and indicates the sage’s belief that the lips normally reveal what is going on inside a person. Since the wise are wise, when they speak, it is worth listening to. However, there is nothing inside fools, so when they speak, one expects stupidity.

George Mylne: Our tongues are our glory, and should be used for the glory of God, and for the good of men. Therefore we ought diligently to store our hearts with that knowledge and wisdom which will be of infinite advantage to ourselves, and make us useful to others.

F.  (:8-9) Link between Worship and Walk

  1. (:8)  Acceptable Worship

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD,

But the prayer of the upright is His delight.

Paul Koptak: Like right sacrifices, prayers are pleasing when offered by those whose walk is upright or straight (cf. Ps. 51:16–17). Worship may never be divorced from our day-to-day actions (Isa. 1:10–17; 29:13; 59:1–2). What is detestable is “an abomination to the LORD,” as echoed in the next proverb (Prov. 15:9; cf. 15:26; 16:5).

Allen Ross: The spiritual condition of the worshiper will determine the acceptability of the worship. Here, as well as throughout the Bible, sacrifices from wicked people are unacceptable because they are insincere and blasphemous (cf. v.29; 21:3, 27; 28:9; et al.; see also 1Sa 15:22; Ps 40:6–8; Isa 1:10–17). But prayer from the righteous pleases God. Greenstone, 162, observes that if God accepts the prayers of the righteous, he will accept their sacrifices. Sacrifice is an outward ritual and easily performed by the wicked, but prayer is a private and inward act and not usually fabricated by unbelievers.

Bruce Waltke: The point is not that I AM prefers prayer over sacrifice but that the wicked hope to manipulate God by ritual magic instead of obtaining his mercy by confessing and repenting (28:13). They offer everything except what I AM asked for: their heart. By contrast, the upright rightly employ prayer and sacrifice in their pursuit of righteousness.

George Mylne: Wicked men may abound in the external acts of religion, as if they intended to compensate the defects of the inward man, by a double measure of external religiosity. By this means they flatter themselves into dangerous and presumptuous hopes of the favor of God, and sometimes gain a name among the godly, who are neither qualified nor authorized to search the secrets of the heart. But God, who cannot be deceived, sees the insincerity of their hearts, and loathes their most splendid and costly services, as so many presumptuous attempts to bribe the great Judge into a connivance at their wickedness!

No man would chose to put himself to a great deal of trouble to no purpose. But hypocrites not only lose the benefit of their services but provoke God’s indignation by them! The wicked and their sacrifices are detestable to him! He counts them a trouble, and will not long bear with them.

  1. (:9)  Two Ways

The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD,

But He loves him who pursues righteousness.

Bruce Waltke: The criterion for God’s favor is not simply to scrupulously perform the rituals but to accompany them with the passionate pursuit of serving others. I AM abhors the sacrifice of the wicked (v. 8a) because the way (or lifestyle; see 1:15). of the wicked is an abomination to him.

George Mylne: The fault is in the sinner himself for his heart is polluted with iniquity, and therefore he cannot reasonably expect acceptance to his most costly religious sacrifices. The whole course of the wicked man’s life is detested by God, who is of purer eyes than to behold sin, or to look upon iniquity. The sinner’s principles are corrupt; his thoughts are evil continually; his words are all vain, or vile, or hypocritical; his holy things are deeply stained with his pollutions and he is abhorred by God, when he thinks he is praying. Not one of his innumerable iniquities are forgiven, for he is without Christ, and has no saving interest in the blood of atonement. If the very heavens are not clean in God’s sight then how abominable and filthy is the man that drinks iniquity like water! And how detestable is the course of his life to him whose glorious holiness makes the angels to cover their faces!


A.  (:10) Accepting Discipline Avoids Death

Stern discipline is for him who forsakes the way;

He who hates reproof will die.

Tremper Longman: This verse fits in with the extensive teaching that hearing criticism and changing wrong behavior is integral to wisdom (3:1–11; 9:7–12; etc.). It is stupid to put up defenses against legitimate criticism since that will just perpetuate wrong behavior and the negative consequences that follow. The proverb puts it in the strongest possible terms: death is the ultimate consequence for those who do not listen to negative comments.

George Mylne: Many men are such enemies to their own souls, that they cannot endure necessary reproofs and corrections, and would rather be allowed to go to the place of torment at their ease than be terrified with apprehensions of their danger, while there is time to make a retreat. Let such people consider, that however grievous correction is yet Hell is much more grievous!

B.  (:11) Accountability before God

Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the LORD,

How much more the hearts of men!

Bruce Waltke: If God sees into the realm of the dead in the darkest depths of the earth, how much more transparent to him are surface-dwelling human hearts (1 Sam. 16:7; 1 Chr. 28:9; Jer. 17:10; 1 Cor. 4:4–5; 1 John 3:20; Rev. 2:23).

George Mylne: The eternal world is hidden from the eyes of all living. Many vain disputes have been carried on by men about the place and state of the departed. But this concealed region is open to the eyes of him with whom we have to do. The outer darkness of the place of the damned is light before him. He knows perfectly every thought of his grand adversary, and is entirely acquainted with every design and every feeling of all the fiends of darkness. Why then do wicked men flatter themselves with the hopes of secrecy in their wicked actions? The most secret principles of their conduct, the most clandestine thoughts of their hearts are as bright as the day to his eyes! At the day of judgment there will be a revelation of the secrets of all hearts, and then it will appear, that not a single imagination of the thoughts of the heart was secret to him whose eyes are like a flame of fire. Woe to them who seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and whose work is in the dark.

C.  (:12) Arrogance of Rejecting Correction

A scoffer does not love one who reproves him,

He will not go to the wise.

Allen Ross: The scoffer resists all efforts to reform him. This individual is fixed in his ways and will not change to live according to the wise (lit., he will not “walk with” the wise).

Bruce Waltke: The arrogant mocker has no excuse for not devouring life-giving knowledge since the wise have been generously scattering it (15:7). The proverb provides insight into the human heart. Hating correction and shunning the company of the wise means one’s heart is set on self-love, not on God, and is headed to death (see John 3:20; Gal. 4:16).

George Mylne: Much skill is required in dispensing reproofs, that they may not irritate instead of reforming. Yet however wise the reprover is, a scoffer will hate him, at least he will not love him. As an evidence of his aversion, he will not go to him but avoid his company as if he were an enemy, because he mortifies his pride. The scoffer is as impatient of rebuke, as if, like the Pope, he laid claim to infallibility.

D.  (:13-15) Appetite for Joy

  1. (:13 ) Impact of Heart’s Condition

A joyful heart makes a cheerful face,

But when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.

Paul Koptak: The difference between a heart that rejoices and one full of sorrow can be seen on the face and sensed in the spirit. This proverb does not contrast external joy with internal sorrow but rather the wide range of our emotional states and their effects.

Bruce Waltke: The parallels of v. 13 assume the heart’s condition affects both a person’s outward appearance and inward spirit. A joyful heart denotes an enthusiastically merry psyche. Makes the face attractive (see 15:2) assumes that all its features come alive, as the Creator intended. Heartache denotes the troubled psyche resulting from folly. It is equated with a broken spirit (15:4; 17:22; 18:14), resulting in depression. The next proverb explains the source of these opposite conditions (cf. 13:12, 17; 14:10, 13; 15:15, 30; 25:13, 20, 25; Sir. 13:25–26). The proverb assumes that a person’s inner spiritual state can be discovered by means of the appearance of the person’s face.

  1. (:14) Wisdom vs. Folly

The mind of the intelligent seeks knowledge,

But the mouth of fools feeds on folly.

Paul Koptak: One can choose to act on the basis of an understanding heart or an unthinking appetite. The proverb implies that a heart that seeks knowledge will find it; folly, by contrast, is hardly gourmet fare.

Bruce Waltke: the fool’s mouth gratifies its appetite by spouting out folly, unlike the discerning heart’s passion for the sages’ knowledge.

Tremper Longman: The contrast between “heart” and “face” may contrast the depth of the wise over against the superficiality of fools. The contrast between “seeks” and “feeds” may imply that knowledge requires effort, while foolishness just partakes of whatever is there before a person.

George Mylne: When godly men meditate by day and night on the law of God the vain imagination of fools supplies them with thoughts suited to their corrupt minds, in which they delight as much as in their necessary food. God has provided marrow and fatness for the entertainment of our minds but these foolish creatures rather choose to feed on wind and chaff. Their mouth pours out foolishness, and they cannot do better, because they neither have, nor desire to have, anything better within their hearts. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth will speaks.

  1. (:15) Feasting vs. Affliction

All the days of the afflicted are bad,

But a cheerful heart has a continual feast.

Allen Ross: Life can be delightful or difficult, depending on one’s circumstances and disposition.

Bruce Waltke: the afflicted in health or wealth may yet have the cheerful heart that enables them to endure and to overcome their wretched circumstances (cf. 2 Cor. 4:8; 6:9–10; Heb. 10:34). The cheerful heart of Prov. 15:15b overcomes all the adversities of 15:15a.


Lindsay Wilson: In both verses, then, a little combined with a right relationship with God and others is not only enough, but much better than more ‘things’ with weaker relationships.

A.  (:16) Supreme Value of the Fear of the Lord

Better is a little with the fear of the LORD,

Than great treasure and turmoil with it.

Bruce Waltke: The connection with v. 15 suggests that economic poverty with spiritual gain is better than spiritual poverty with economic gain (cf. 10:2).

Tremper Longman: The better-than proverbs express relative values. In other words, Proverbs affirms both the value of the fear of Yahweh and the value of wealth (cf. 1:7 and 10:22), but if a choice must be made, then there is no question but that the fear of Yahweh is much more valuable. In other words, though the book often suggests that wealth is the reward of the wise, it also makes it clear that sometimes one must choose between fear of Yahweh and wealth.  The verse also implies a contrast between fear of Yahweh and turmoil. The assumption is that the fear of Yahweh brings calmness of mind as well.

George Mylne: If a Christian has but little, it is pleasant to him; because he considers it as the gift of his heavenly Father, and tastes in it the love of his Savior, through whose grace everything is pure and sanctified to him. The wicked have their food from the providence of God which rules over all but the righteous have their bread by covenant and promise. If they have little in possession, they know that they shall have everything necessary and good for them, from the possessor of Heaven and earth. And when they are pinched with straits, it is not for lack of goodwill in their heavenly Father but because his goodness to them is directed by his infallible wisdom. If they have scarcely any food at all, they have promises on which they can feed; with a pleasure never tasted by the men of the world when their grain and wine do most abound.

B.  (:17) Supreme Value of Love

Better is a dish of vegetables where love is,

Than a fattened ox and hatred with it.

Bruce Waltke: This proverb contrasts two meals to teach that love toward one another, which cheers the spirit and forges bonds of friendship during dire circumstances, is better than the best circumstances when accompanied with hatred and rivalry that breaks the bonds of friendship. A small serving together with vegetables describes the most modest meal in quantity and quality. With love denotes that the meal is accompanied with the passion of cherishing others and their company. A fattened ox represents the king of domesticated animals at its best and functions as a synecdoche for the finest foods (cf. Luke 15:23). With hatred denotes the inward emotion of loathing the others at the sumptuous banquet and of desiring to rid oneself of them.

C.  (:18) Supreme Value of Self-Control

A hot-tempered man stirs up strife,

But the slow to anger pacifies contention.

Bruce Waltke: The patient, who are numbered with the wise (see 14:29), speedily contain controversy and strife to create “quietness” so that good sense will prevail and wrongdoing will cease. They are greater than the wrathful, for they can rule over the chaos caused by hotheads who cannot control their passions (cf. 25:28).

George Mylne: It is one of the amiable glories of God, that he is slow to anger and considering how much we are indebted to his patience, we are strongly obliged to copy after him, as dear children. A hot-tempered disposition makes a man the firebrand of society but meekness makes him a blessing to his neighbors. He who appeases strife, does us as much service, as he who quenches the fire that is burning down a house. We must learn of Christ, who was meek and lowly of heart. So shall we find rest for ourselves, and pacify contentions, and enjoy a double blessing from the great Author of blessings. “Blessed are the meek, blessed are the peace-makers.”


Paul Koptak: Verses 19–24 appear to take a chiastic pattern formed by repetition key words:

A  Path of the upright (v. 19)

B  Joy of a wise son, joy of folly (vv. 20–21)

C  Plans and counsel (v. 22)

B′  Joy of an apt reply (v. 23)

A′  Path of life (v. 24)

A.  (:19) Path of the Upright

The way of the sluggard is as a hedge of thorns,

But the path of the upright is a highway.

Paul Koptac: Thorns and briers in the path certainly slow the way and make traveling miserable; they may be a sign of folly, for who would choose such a route? They are also a sign of neglect (cf. 24:30–31). Thorns and briers are associated with evil in Micah 7:4: “The best of them is like a brier, the most upright worse than a thorn hedge.”

Allen Ross: The way of the upright is like a well-made road, a “highway” (selulâ); they have no reason to detour or swerve.

Bruce Waltke: The simile denotes an impassible obstruction, and more specifically, an obstruction that pricks and pains. Sluggards want to achieve their goals, but their spiritual condition precludes them; to them, everything is too hard, painful, or dangerous to even try (22:13; 26:13). But the path of upright people, who have internalized the sages’ teaching, is a built-up highway cleared of obstacles and good for travel. The metaphor signifies that those who embrace inspired wisdom find the path to achieving their goals free of obstacles.

B.  (:20-21) Joy in Wise Behavior

  1. (:20) Impact of Wise Behavior on Parents

A wise son makes a father glad,

But a foolish man despises his mother.

Bruce Waltke: The proverb suggests the essential role of parents in teaching the son their wisdom (see 1:7–8; cf. 23:22; 30:17). “Be glad” and “despise” are not a precise match; a son who delights his parents does not despise but respects them, and one who hates them does not make them glad but grieves them.

George Mylne: Nothing can make a dutiful child happier, than to contribute to the happiness of his parents. This filial disposition must not be confined to childhood but dwell in us while either father or mother dwell upon the earth. If our parents should require us to do some great and hard thing for them both nature and gratitude would enforce our compliance. But all that they require, is that we should be wise and happy, for their felicity is bound up in our welfare. Surely he is an unnatural fool who will not gratify them in such kind desires.

  1. (:21) Senseless Pursuit of Folly vs. Wise Staying on Course

Folly is joy to him who lacks sense,

But a man of understanding walks straight.

Paul Koptak: Only a fool finds joy in the foolishness of putting self and pleasure first, not considering the consequences of actions or caring about the effects on self or others.

Bruce Waltke: The imprecise antithesis, “folly brings joy” and “make [their] going straight,” implies that senseless people recklessly turn aside from the path of duty and life while understanding people stay the course for the joy set before them (cf. Heb. 12:2).

George Mylne: Sin is not only practiced by the wicked but it is loved by them. Folly is their joy, and therefore they sin even without a temptation. It is their food and drink to sin, and they roll iniquity under their tongue as if it were a sweet morsel. They do not hate those sins that are condemned by God’s Word but the Word that condemns them. They dislike salvation itself because it is a deliverance from sin.

But the wise man’s employment is to cleanse his way, and walk uprightly. He hates the sin that dwells in him, and loathes himself for his impurities. He takes pleasure in holiness, and loves the law of God, because it testifies against his iniquities.

C.  (:22) Purposeful Living Via Plans and Counsel

Without consultation, plans are frustrated,

But with many counselors they succeed.

Paul Koptak: Just as destinations are reached by walking straight ahead (15:21), so goals are met when plans are submitted to the wisdom of others. Others can often spot flaws or shortcomings that we cannot, and to fail to consult them is to court trouble.

Bruce Waltke: A plurality of counselors offsets the individual’s limitations. The similar proverb in 11:14 pertains to a nation, but this generalization can refer to any situation where counsel is helpful.

George Mylne: The proud and stubborn man, who thinks himself above advice, meets with disappointment and shame. But by a multitude of counselors, (that is, of wise counselors, for none else deserve the name), plans are established, and their success is generally ensured. This is so important a truth, that Solomon takes care we should not forget it, and therefore repeats it in this place, from a former passage of this book.

B1.  (:23)  Joy in Wise Speech

A man has joy in an apt answer,

And how delightful is a timely word!

George Mylne: To make words really good, it is necessary that they be spoken in due season; for as the showers of rain in their proper season fertilize the ground, but at a wrong time drown the hopes of the year so words have good or bad effects, as the time of speaking them is well or ill chosen.

A1.  (:24)  Path of Life

The path of life leads upward for the wise,

That he may keep away from Sheol below.

Paul Koptak: At root, everyone wants “life,” but too many pursue it in ways that lead to death. Surely this saying brings us back to the most basic contrast of the proverbs, the ends toward which our lives are directed, the way we will travel.

Allen Ross: The point here then is that the righteous expect to live long and healthy lives (2:20–22; 3:18; 5:6; 10:17; 13:14).

Bruce Waltke: This janus, a synthetic proverb, ramps up the reward of righteousness from present joy to everlasting life with I AM—in contrast to the destiny of the wicked, the theme of vv. 25–29. The path of life refers to the situation of having an everlasting relationship with the living God. Leads upward, as an antithesis to downward in connection with the grave, implies eternal life above and beyond the grave. For designates the prudent (or “insightful”) as the path’s beneficiaries. And so signifies the logical consequence of v. 24b: being on the upward path, one turns aside from the grave (lit. “from Sheol”) below. Salvation from the grave is not merely avoiding an untimely death, for then the path of life would be swallowed up in death, negating this proverb and the book of Proverbs.


A.  (:25) God Opposes the Proud But Supports the Vulnerable

The LORD will tear down the house of the proud,

But He will establish the boundary of the widow.

Paul Koptak: The widow’s boundary stone is the symbol of all that is humble and vulnerable about poverty. In Scripture, the moved boundary marker comes to stand for all injustice against weaker persons (cf. Deut. 19:14; 27:17; Hos. 5:10).  Yahweh makes sure it continues to stand right where it is (cf. Prov. 22:28; 23:10–11). So in the songs of Hannah and Mary, Yahweh brings down the high and mighty and lifts up the lowly (1 Sam. 2:1–10; Luke 1:46–55).

George Mylne: Let us never be proud and vain of anything unless we wish to have it destroyed! God abhors pride even in those whom he dearly loves and shows his resentment of it by sending humbling providences.

B.  (:26) God Detests Evil Motivations But Loves Righteous Intentions

Evil plans are an abomination to the LORD,

But pleasant words are pure.

Paul Koptak: Read alongside 15:25, the saying highlights Yahweh’s look at intentions (cf. 15:3, 11) that motivate right and wrong behaviors.

Tremper Longman: The proverb thus provides a strong condemnation of evil plans, which presumably refers to those who strategize concerning the downfall of others.

Allen Ross: The Lord is pleased with plans that have righteous intentions. The intentions or “thoughts of the wicked” are thoughts that will harm other people; these are an abomination to the Lord.

Bruce Waltke: Pure means free of any contaminations not consistent with something’s essential nature, a notion that passes easily into its figurative use for that which is ethically pure (cf. Eccl. 9:2). Here, “pure” functions as a metonymy for favorable to I AM (cf. Mal. 3:16), the opposite of “abomination.” Such words and plans shine before I AM like the gold in his sanctuary because they are free of all the ethical impurities that damage others, such as lies, distortions, and harshness.

George Mylne: The thoughts of the wicked are full of selfishness, impiety, pride, and impurity, and must be infinitely offensive unto the pure eyes of Jehovah. And whenever wicked men are, by the convincing operation of the Spirit, made to discern the secrets of their own hearts they become loathsome to themselves. Wicked men must forsake their thoughts, as well as their outward practices of wickedness; for what is the profit of making clean the outside of the cup while the inner part is full of impurity?

But the thoughts of the pure are well pleasing to the Lord, and their words are pleasant in his ears. God is of pure eyes, and delights in those who are made pure by the blood of his Son. Their heads are cleansed from iniquity, and produce those holy thoughts and words which are acceptable in the sight of the Lord their God and Redeemer. Their prayers and praises are a sweet fragrances in his nostrils. Their confessions are music to his ears. Their common discourse, when it is seasoned with salt, and ministers grace to the hearers is heard by him with delight.

C.  (:27) The Profits of Bribery Are Destructive

He who profits illicitly troubles his own house,

But he who hates bribes will live.

Bruce Waltke: “Greedy for gain” leaves open whether the bribe is given or received; both are bad (17:8; Exod. 23:8; Deut. 16:19; Ps. 15:5; Eccl. 7:7; Isa. 1:23; 5:23). Will live is an imprecise antithesis to “ruin their households,” implying that “live” entails the continuation of the good person’s house and “ruin their households” entails a Judas-like death (cf. Matt. 26:15; 27:5).

George Mylne: He who is greedy for gain shall not live so the wise man insinuates in the last part of the verse. He either shortens his days by his anxieties about the world, and those sinful methods which he takes to obtain the things on which he has placed his heart or he embitters his life by his distracting cares. He designs to secure his family against poverty and contempt, and to raise it to eminence and honor but his covetousness brings evil and shame to his house, while he sins against his own soul. He kindles a fire in his dwelling, which shall consume the tabernacles of bribery.

D.  (:28-29) Righteous / Wicked Contrasts

  1. (:28) Thoughtful vs. Impulsive Speech

The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer,

But the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.

Bruce Waltke: The proverb assumes that the righteous have the self-control not to react emotionally but to think before they answer, unlike the wicked, who only want to vent their malice (cf. 10:31–32; 15:1–2). What they “ponder” is how to plunder (24:2).

George Mylne: A wicked man has little sense of the importance of the government of the tongue, and lacks the bridle of the fear of God to manage this unruly member, and therefore he pours forth evil things. But for all his vain and wicked words, he must one day account.

  1. (:29) Separated vs. United to the Lord

The LORD is far from the wicked,

But He hears the prayer of the righteous.

Tremper Longman: It is not that Yahweh is unaware of the prayers of the wicked. The verse does not mean that God listens only to the prayers of the righteous and does not even hear those of the wicked. The verb “hear” in Hebrew often implies the response. God does something about the prayers of the righteous. To say that God is far from the wicked does not imply that he is merely local in his presence, but rather that he does not act on their behalf. In the light of the second colon, the first may be paraphrased: Yahweh does not respond to the prayers of the wicked.

Bruce Waltke: Assertions about I AM’s presence or distance are not theological statements that restrict his omnipresence but religious statements about the availability of his favor.

George Mylne: The Lord is not far from any man, for in him we all live, and move, and have our being. But as wicked men are far from God, through the alienation of their hearts, and the wickedness of their works so the Lord is far from them, that is, he will have no fellowship with them. The righteous cry, and the Lord hears them but he does not hear the cry of the wicked, and beholds them afar off. Wicked men think they may safely go on in sin, and if trouble comes upon them, then they will cry to the Lord, and all shall be well. Many have been ruined by such presumptuous expectations, and sad experience has at last convinced them that the Almighty was under no obligation to attend to their voice in adversity, when they would not hear his voice in the day of his forbearance.

E.  (:30-32) Importance of Heeding Wise Counsel

Paul Koptak: Verses 30–32 are linked by catchword šmʿ (“hear”) in “news” (i.e., what is heard, 15:30), “listens” (15:31), and “heeds” (15:32).

  1. (:30) Wise Counsel Nourishes Health

Bright eyes gladden the heart;

Good news puts fat on the bones.

Paul Koptak: Set in the context of this chapter, the proverb is about messages that come from the good heart and bring health and life to those who receive them. If we look to the context that follows, we must include life-giving rebuke (15:31).

Allen Ross: The idea of “health to the bones” comes from a Hebrew expression that is literally “makes the bones fat,” a symbol of health and prosperity (see also 17:22; 25:25; Ge 45:27–28; Isa 52:7–8).

Bruce Waltke: the eyes reveal the inner vitality and joy of the bringer of “good news,” its parallel in v. 30b. Scripture associates light with righteousness (Prov. 13:9; Matt. 6:22–23) and with life and good fortune (Job 3:16; 33:28; Prov. 4:18; 6:23; 13:9; 16:15). The New Testament connects light with Christ and his disciples (cf. Matt. 4:16; 5:14–16; John 1:4–5; 12:35–36; Eph. 5:8). Proverbs associates light and life exclusively with the wise, implying that illuminated eyes belong to the wise (15:13a).

Tremper Longman: This proverb imparts a psychological insight. Both move from external to internal. The first observes that one can tell from others’ bright eyes (though it is difficult to be certain about the exact force of “light of the eyes”) the positive state of the core of their being. The “eyes” in question are probably the eyes of persons whose good demeanor encourages those with whom they come into contact. Here “heart,” which in general refers to the core of one’s personality, clearly is connected with emotions and gives pause to those who suggest that the heart emphasizes internal cognitive processes.

The second colon also begins with something external, a good report or good news, in this case a matter of hearing rather than seeing. The effects of this news are also felt internally. A good report makes people feel good to their very bones.

  1. (:31)  Wise Counsel Must Be Heeded

He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof

Will dwell among the wise.

George Mylne: If we have a just sense of the value of reproofs, we will count that faithful friend who reproves, rather than flatters a treasure, and frequent his company on that account. We will not angrily leave that Christian society with which we are connected, because the word of God is faithfully applied in it to the correction of vice, and discipline impartially administered, although we ourselves should become the objects of it.

The servant who loves a faithful reprover, and truly regards his own soul, will chose to live in a house where God is feared, and family religion enforced. And every man possessed of this humble disposition, will chose that company in which he is most likely to be told of his faults.

Those who reprove others, ought to dispense their beneficial admonitions with meekness and prudence, that they may not render this ordinance of God offensive by their manner of dispensing it, and render themselves accountable for the harm done by this means to precious souls.

  1. (:32)  Wise Counsel Must Not Be Ignored

He who neglects discipline despises himself,

But he who listens to reproof acquires understanding.

Paul Koptak: Those who ignore discipline not only disrespect others such as the wise, they hate themselves. Conversely, to “gain understanding” is to respect and love oneself. The thought echoes 9:12 (lit.): “If you are wise, you are wise for yourself.” The proverb also connects with 15:30, in that the one who heeds (lit. “hears”) correction “gains understanding” (lit., “heart”; cf. “lack judgment [heart]” in 9:4).

Allen Ross: Accepting discipline is important to personal development. The person who despises discipline slights or “despises himself” (mô ʾēs napšô means that he rejects himself as though he were of little value and so fails to grow). One must acquire understanding, especially about oneself, to grow spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally.

Tremper Longman: Those who reject discipline disdain their lives because they run the risk of getting into trouble over and over again since they don’t allow themselves to be aware of their mistakes. On the other hand, those who do listen “acquire heart,” where heart points to one’s core personality (see 3:1). In other words, they become people of substance. There is something to their internal makeup.

George Mylne: But that man is happy who welcomes the word of exhortation and reproof, for though he is at present chargeable with many faults and follies yet he is in the way of reformation, and takes the sure method of getting understanding. He is meek and teachable, and God will bless to his soul that word which he receives with meekness.


Lindsay Wilson: Verse 33 closes off this section by pointing out that the fear of the Lord (i.e. respecting God as God) is the basis and perhaps even the content of this discipline, and will lead to the practical skills of a wisdom-shaped character. In parallel with this is the virtue of humility (also paired in 22:4), which implies that a right view of oneself before God is essential for our prospering, here described as honour or glory.

A.  Fear of the Lord

The fear of the LORD is the instruction for wisdom,

George Mylne: The fear of the Lord will be a preservative to us from sin and folly, and an incentive to all holy living and godliness. A good understanding have all those who keep the commandments of God.

B.  Humility

And before honor comes humility.

Bruce Waltke: “Humility” signifies a disposition that renounces self-sufficiency to pursue commitment to I AM, who alone is trustworthy to provide life-giving instruction (3:5–7). Commitment to I AM always [comes] before honor (see 3:16; 18:12; 22:4). Paradoxically, those who strip off their glory before the glorious I AM are in the end crowned with the glory and the wealth that give them social esteem (see 3:16; 8:18; 11:16).