Search Bible Outlines and commentaries

Paul Koptak: The many doubled proverbs and images of this chapter suggest that a clue for reading can be found by attending to the repetition. So we observe that two pairs of royal proverbs (20:2 and 8; 20:26 and 28) frame two clusters of Yahweh proverbs (20:10 and 12; 20:22–24 and 27), with a list of speech sins running throughout and gathering at the center: quarrels (20:3), self-deception (20:9), sharp bargaining (20:14), unwise pledges (20:16), falsehood (20:17), tale-bearing (20:19), cursing (20:20), threat (20:22), and rash vows (20:25). We also notice that there are two proverbs about the king’s winnowing (20:8, 26), two on Yahweh’s hatred for false weights and measures (20:10, 23), and two on the sluggard who goes without food (20:4, 13).  Therefore we will look at Yahweh’s work of watching and searching, the king’s work of winnowing, and the failure to work by sluggards of all kinds, especially those who do not discipline their speech.


A.  (:12) Perception Is a Gift from God

The hearing ear and the seeing eye,

The LORD has made both of them.

Charles Bridges: Sight and hearing are the two senses by which instruction is conveyed to the mind.  They are component parts of that divine structure that God so wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

Richard Clifford: In the psychology of Proverbs, the ear and the eye take in data for the heart to store, ponder, and decide. What the heart decides, the mouth, the hands, and the feet will effect. The saying can mean either that God intends people to use their senses to become wise (God created them), or, what is far more likely, that if human beings can see and hear, how much more can God. Psalm 94:9 is relevant: “The one who planted the ear, does he not hear? The one who formed the eye, does he not see?” The argument is a fortiori, “how much more.”

Paul Koptak: The figure of “ears that hear, eyes that see” is used throughout the Old and New Testaments to signify careful attention and discernment, just as Jesus said, “If any have ears to hear, let them hear.” The form of this proverb is similar to 20:10.

Tremper Longman: So much of the wisdom of proverbs is based on experience that arises out of observation. This is what makes wisdom seem so practical and, to some, even secular. This latter view ignores the explicitly theological teaching of the book that connects the acquisition of wisdom to the “fear of Yahweh” (1:7) or the metaphor that rules the first nine chapters of the book, describing a relationship with Woman Wisdom. But this simple proverb brings additional insight: even observation only happens because of Yahweh. There is no seeing or hearing apart from his good gift.

Ernest Lucas: The import of the statement that the ear and eye, the two organs used in discernment, are made by the LORD is probably that humans should therefore use them properly for the purpose for which they were given. This will mean beginning with the ‘fear of the LORD’ who made them (1:7).

George Mylne: It is said that the famous physician Galen learned the absurdity of atheism from the consideration of the human eye. The structure of it clearly displays the amazing wisdom of God, and his goodness shines with no less brightness in the pleasures and advantages derived from the ministry of this admirable organ.

B.  (:13) Diligence Rewarded

Do not love sleep, lest you become poor;

Open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with food.

Robert Clifford: Sleep, laziness, and poverty are closely linked as in 19:15.

Tremper Longman: The implication seems to be that whoever prefers sleep to work may anger the father enough to be cut out of the family inheritance. The converse expressed in the second colon is that an alert person will not lack for sustenance.

Allen Ross: The verse is set in antithetical parallelism, the ideas of loving sleep and staying awake being contrasted, as well as their results of growing poor and being satisfied. Just as sleep can be used for slothfulness, so opening the eyes and staying awake can represent vigorous, active conduct.

George Mylne: Sleep, as well as food, is necessary for refreshing our frail bodies but neither food nor sleep must be used for their own sakes, nor must we be intemperate in either of them. Sleep taken in a moderate degree, is the nurse of nature, it recruits our physical and mental powers, and prepares us for the labors of life. But excess of sleep enervates the body, and stupefies our souls, and is loved only by sluggards.

We have received time and talents from God, to be used according to his direction and to waste the one, and bury the other, is a very great sin. And yet by immoderate sleep, we do both in some degree, for all the time that we sleep beyond what is needful for us, our talents are unemployed, and our time is running out in vain.

C.  (:14) Bartering Tactics Can Be Deceitful

‘Bad, bad,’ says the buyer;

But when he goes his way, then he boasts.

Tremper Longman: Here we have the case of “seller beware.” Ancient Near Eastern commercial transactions, as in some quarters even today, were done by barter and negotiation. Here the shrewd buyer makes it seem as if there is something wrong with the merchandise; when the seller parts with it at a low price, the buyer goes to his friends and brags about his good fortune. The function of this proverb seems again to be a warning against the deception of appearances. Proverbs is often concerned that commercial transactions are fair. Typically (11:1; 16:11; 20:10), the warning is directed at the shrewd seller, but here it is the shrewd buyer.

Allen Ross: Shrewdness is one thing, but deceitful misrepresentation in the deal in order to buy under value becomes unethical.

Charles Bridges: We are all engaged in pecuniary transactions.  With many it is the main business of life.  Yet such are the temptations from our own interest and the selfishness of others and the general example of the world to deviate from a straight line that we should be most grateful for this probing analysis of deceit.  The man of God knows that he must do everything to the glory of God.

George Mylne: The spirit of this proverb includes in it, a condemnation of the like methods that sellers use to get bad commodities disposed of. When a man commends his wares above their value, or gives a false account of the price which they cost him, or of the price that he was offered for them, or when he uses deceitful means to conceal their bad properties then he is dealing unrighteously, and seeking the gain by fraud by which he is not so likely to fill his purse as to wound his character, and bring the curse of God upon his substance.

D.  (:15) Surpassing Value of Wise Speech

There is gold, and an abundance of jewels;

But the lips of knowledge are a more precious thing.

Robert Clifford: Wise lips are a more precious adornment than the finest jewelry, for they display the wisdom of the heart. Wisdom is more beautiful than gold or silver.

Tremper Longman: This verse is a variant of the teaching that wisdom is better than precious jewels and expensive metals. If a choice must be made, then wisdom is better than these desired objects. The proverb is intended to teach a proper perspective. After all, wealth often comes through wisdom, so better to get that, so, like Solomon, one can be wise and rich!

Charles Bridges: It is divine knowledge that is preeminent here.  Human wisdom may captivate the imagination and furnish it with useful information.  But the words for the most part die away on the ear.  They do not feed the heart.  They do not comfort the afflicted, bring hope to the despondent, or teach the ignorant.  So while they may be pearls, they are not the pearl of great price, that rare jewel that dims the luster of earth’s most splendid vanities (Matthew 13:45-46).

But lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel.  How precious is the sound of the messenger of the Gospel when he brings good tidings of great joy to a burdened conscience.  Truly the sound of his coming is welcome on account of his message.

George Mylne: wisest and richest of kings, inspired by the Author of wisdom and riches, frequently reminds us, that the lips directed by true knowledge, are a more precious jewel than any that can be found in the mines of the east! A deep impression of this truth, would be of very great advantage to our souls. When a man values gold and rubies above wisdom, he lies exposed to a thousand temptations of a very dangerous kind. For he is like a blind man who knows not where he goes, and will leap into a pit, if he imagines that money is at the bottom of it, because he sees not how deep it is, and how impossible it will be to get out. But he who prefers the lips of knowledge to riches, has his eyes in his head, and steadily observes the ways of religion and happiness.


A.  (:16) Protect Yourself against Unwise Loans

Take his garment when he becomes surety for a stranger;

And for foreigners, hold him in pledge.

Paul Koptak: The saying may be a parody on the teaching of Deuteronomy 24:10–13, 17, that one should not take another’s garment in security or at the least should give it back on a cold night. Ironically, one who makes an unwise pledge may well have given his shirt, for he will surely lose it (cf. Prov. 22:27).

Tremper Longman: This proverb is another warning against providing loans or supporting loans for another person, particularly for a stranger (see also 6:1–5; 11:15; 17:18; 22:26; 27:13). This proverb is addressed to those who have made the loan, and it says that no mercy should be shown to foolish people who stick their necks out in such a way. Better to be generous to someone in need (11:24; 28:27; 29:7, 14) than to expect to get paid back for such a loan.

Ernest Lucas: The proverb is probably ironical: anyone who stands pledge for a loan to a stranger is acting stupidly, and their pledge is as good as forfeit from the outset.

George Mylne: Nothing will so soon ruin a man’s estate and credit, as rash suretyship. If you see a man who engages in putting up security for one who is a stranger to him, and especially for a immoral woman, trust him not if he should swear, and offer you the surest bonds for payment. He will in a very short time become a bankrupt, and therefore lend him nothing. And if you sell him anything without ready money, be sure to have a sufficient pledge. You may even take his garment without any breach of charity, for the law about restoring the garment taken by way of pledge, was made for the benefit of the poor and unfortunate, and not for those who are running to ruin by their own willful folly.

B.  (:17) Dishonest Gain Will Not Satisfy

Bread obtained by falsehood is sweet to a man,

But afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel.

Robert Clifford: Food obtained through deceptive behavior provides deceptive nourishment.

Tremper Longman: The principle of the proverb is that material gained by false pretenses or in an illegitimate way may at first seem enjoyable and beneficial, but in the end shows itself harmful. What appears to be bread in the mouth is actually gravel to be spit out. . .  The proverb is thus a warning against pursuing gain through false means.

Sid S. Buzzell: Sin, usually attractive in its immediate payoff, ultimately turns on its host (cf. 7:14-23).

C.  (:18)  Careful Planning and Wise Counsel

Prepare plans by consultation,

And make war by wise guidance.

Paul Koptak: Here the emphasis is on not knowing all the details or possible outcomes of a situation; for that reason one should seek out advice, practical and ethical, from one who speaks words of knowledge (20:15).

Tremper Longman: The wise person does not act on impulse but only after careful reflection (15:28; 19:2; 20:18, 25; 21:5; 29:20). This proverb encourages thoughtful preparation for action and then applies this principle particularly to battle. Bad things will happen if one enters battle rashly. The thought is similar to 24:6. This proverb is an excellent example of the sharpening effect of parallelism. The general principle is given first, but then it is applied to one particular area, warfare. The general principle, though, allows the reader to apply the idea to other aspects of life.

Charles Bridges: To deliberate before we act by seeking advice is the path of wisdom.  Even the wisest of men valued this (1 Kings 12:6).  God has placed us in society, so that we are more or less dependent on each other.  So while it is most important to have clear judgment oneself, we must guard against an obstinate and exclusive adherence to our own opinions.

Matthew Henry: Consider, and take advice, whether the war should be begun or no, whether it be just, whether it be prudent, whether we be a match for the enemy, and able to carry it on when it is too late to retreat (Lu. 14:31); and, when it is begun, consider how and by what arts it may be prosecuted, for management is as necessary as courage.

George Mylne: Wisdom lies, in the first place, in forming right purposes; and secondly, in devising, and executing proper plans for bringing these good purposes to pass. However good our designs are yet rashness and inconsideration will be sure to render them abortive. And, besides our own wisdom, it is necessary for us, in all matters of importance, to take the advice of the wise and upright. If we have such a high opinion of our own wisdom, that we think we have no need of counsel from other men then we prove ourselves fools of the worst kind, for there is more hope of any other kind of fools, than for those who are wise in their own conceit.

D.  (:19) Gossips Cannot Be Trusted

He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets,

Therefore do not associate with a gossip.

Matthew Henry: Those are unprincipled people that go about carrying stories, that make mischief among neighbours and relations, that sow in the minds of people jealousies of their governors, of their ministers, and of one another, that reveal secrets which they are entrusted with or which by unfair means they come to the knowledge of, under pretence of guessing at men’s thoughts and intentions, tell that of them which is really false.

Robert Clifford: To protect your private thoughts and judgments, stay away from gossips.

George Mylne: Flatterers are generally gossips. They sooth and caress a man to fish his secrets out of him, and they tell the secrets which they have got by these base means, to the next companion they meet, and perhaps make very considerable additions to them, for they take the liberty to add conjectures of their own to what they have heard. By spreading their stories, they sow the seeds of contention among neighbors, and their words are as dainties which go down into the innermost parts of the belly. Beware, then, of those flatterers, who cajole you with good words and fair speeches!

Self love makes us flatterers of ourselves, and disposes us to be well pleased with those who comply with all our humours, assent to all our opinions, and approve of all our actions.

But those who flatter us are not our friends but for the most part the most dangerous enemies we have. If we give them our company we are very likely to hear stories that will vex us. If we tell them any of our secrets we may be sure of having them divulged, and represented to our disadvantage. When they tell us stories about other people, we may judge how they will behave to us for when they were in the company of these people, they flattered them as much as they now flatter us and by their pretenses of friendship, they made a shift to pick up these tales with which we are now entertained.

It is an excess of self love, which makes the company of a flatterer tolerable. It is the lack of love to our neighbors, that makes us bear with tale bearers. But if we will not discountenance them for the sake of our neighbors, let us do it for our own for they will mete out the same measure to us, that they have already meted out to other men.

E.  (:20) Cursing Parents Is a Capital Offense

He who curses his father or his mother,

His lamp will go out in time of darkness.

Robert Clifford: The extinguishing of a lamp is a metaphor for death (Job 18:5, 6; 21:17; Prov. 13:9; 24:20; Isa. 43:17). Commandment and instruction are called a light and a lamp in Prov. 6:23. One who despises parents quenches a great source of instruction and discipline.

F.  (:21) Quick Wealth Can Be Fleeting

An inheritance gained hurriedly at the beginning,

Will not be blessed in the end.

Richard Clifford: An inheritance in an agricultural society such as Israel typically was not money but farmland, which was believed to require God’s blessing to be productive. . .  One ought not to take one’s inheritance hastily, perhaps in the sense of taking it with undue haste from elderly parents.

Paul Koptak: Whether the inheritance is gained quickly or greedily, the point of the proverb is that inappropriate behavior at the start cannot lead to blessing, divine or human, at the end (cf. 20:17). Choices have predictable outcomes.

Tremper Longman: This proverb may well fit in with the extensive teaching on the dangers of “quick wealth” (11:18; 13:11). It may envision a young, immature person coming into an inheritance because of the untimely early death of parents. Without the wisdom needed to manage well, the material goods are not a blessing but rather quickly evaporate.

Allen Ross: The verb describes a hurried or hastened activity; perhaps a wayward son seizes the inheritance quickly (cf. Lk 15:12) or even drives out his parents (cf. Pr 19:26). In either case divine justice is at work—this enterprise “will not be blessed” (lōʾ tebōrāk); rather than prosper, it will probably be wasted.

G.  (:22) Vengeance Belongs to the Lord

Do not say, ‘I will repay evil’;

Wait for the LORD, and He will save you.

Tremper Longman: The wise do not look for revenge. They rather can expect their God to act on their behalf. Christian readers will recognize the same idea behind Paul’s teaching in Rom. 12:17–20: “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (TNIV).

Allen Ross: The response of the righteous must be to “wait” (qawwēh) on the Lord; this waiting involves belief in and reliance on God. The work of the Lord here focuses on the positive side—he is a deliverer (yōšaʿ) rather than an avenger, although to deliver the righteous involves judgment on the wicked.

Matthew Henry: We must refer ourselves to God, and leave it to him to plead our cause, to maintain our right, and reckon with those that do us wrong in such a way and manner as he thinks fit and in his own due time: “Wait on the Lord, and attend his pleasure, acquiesce in his will, and he does not say that he will punish him that has injured thee (instead of desiring that thou must forgive him and pray for him), but he will save thee, and that is enough. He will protect thee, so that thy passing by one injury shall not (as is commonly feared) expose thee to another; nay, he will recompense good to thee, to balance thy trouble and encourage thy patience,” as David hoped, when Shimei cursed him, 2 Sa. 16:12.


A.  (:23) Dishonest Business Practices

Differing weights are an abomination to the LORD,

And a false scale is not good.

Charles Bridges: Three times [God] drives this point home (verses 10, 14, 23).  Yet this is hardly vain repetition.  There must be an important reason for this to be repeated.

The truth of this proverb should be especially taken note of in our evil commercial system.  Differing weights are continually condemned as an abomination – yes, they are detested by God; yet how often are they ignored as if they were a necessity.

George Mylne: Injustice is a poisonous weed which springs up very plenteously in the heart of men. It needs great pains to pluck it up, and the inspired writer does not grudge his pains for this purpose. When he might have been dazzling us with new discoveries of surprising truths in every sentence he repeats the same warnings over and over, to reclaim men from every instance of dishonesty. How inexcusable will the unjust trader be, if he continues unreformed, after all that the Spirit of God has inculcated so frequently for his conviction and amendment.

B.  (:24) Perplexity of Divine Providence

Man’s steps are ordained by the LORD,

How then can man understand his way?

Paul Koptak: The juxtaposition of human plans and intentions with God’s sovereign action in human affairs is not meant to discourage planning or activity but rather to guide it. The wise do well to seek counsel about this plan (20:18), listening instead of making rash or hurtful statements (20:19–20).

Tremper Longman: The teaching of this proverb is similar to that found in 16:1, 9. The path of a person, representing one’s life journey, is enigmatic. Indeed, to claim to know where one is heading is presumptuous and dangerous. The book of Proverbs certainly does not denigrate planning; just the opposite is true (16:1, 3). Yet planning must be done with the awareness that God can intervene and change one’s future. This proverb is a call to recognize God’s sovereignty over one’s life.

Ernest Lucas: The main point of v. 24 is Yahweh’s sovereignty, belief in which is essential if one is to trust him to uphold the moral order. Proverbs, like the rest of the OT, holds in tension belief in God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. Here, as in 16:1, 9, recognition of God’s sovereignty acts as a counter to human hubris. It means that there is an element of uncertainty and mystery in life, but that is no excuse for not thinking and planning ahead (15:22; 16:3; 20:18).

Allen Ross: How can anyone delude himself into thinking that he does not need the Lord when even a strong man’s activities are divinely prepared (see, e.g., Ge 50:20; see also Pr 3:6 for the proper advice in view of this truth). McKane, 546–47, says: “No man can walk with enlightened assurance along the path of life by reason of a well-cultivated nicety of judgment and power of intellectual penetration. He is dependent at every step of the way on Yahweh, and without his light on his path his journey is deprived of safe guidance and enlightened purposiveness.”

Charles Bridges: Here are two basic principles: God’s controllable power and sovereignty, and man’s absolute dependence and helplessness.  Here is no infringement of freedom on the one hand and no excuse for laziness on the other hand.  Man often acts as if he is the master of his own situation, as if his steps are his own.  Or else, having the warped idea of every event being predetermined, he sits still instead of working diligently,so the Lord’s purposes may be fulfilled.  But the humble Chrisitan exercises his freedom in the spirit of dependence on God.  His steps are directed by the Lord, who both inspires the effort and brings success.

C.  (:25) Rash Vows

It is a snare for a man to say rashly, ‘It is holy!’

And after the vows to make inquiry.

Richard Clifford: Proverbs is against precipitous vows. One is bound by one’s words (Lev. 27:28). One should reflect on the cost and consequences before vowing rather than after. The great biblical example of a reckless vow is Judg. 11:29–40: Jephthah vowed to offer up as a holocaust “whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites” and ended up sacrificing his only daughter. See also the oath of Saul (1 Samuel 14) and of Herod (Matt. 14:1–12). What is said of vows applies also to human promises generally.

Paul Koptak: The metaphor of the trap should register with anyone who has made a promise, only later to wish he or she had been more careful.

Tremper Longman: This proverb, whose syntax seems a bit awkward, fits in with others that warn concerning the danger of speaking before thinking. Here the stakes are particularly high since impetuous commitments are being made in terms of one’s relationship to God. A vow (Lev. 7:16–17; 22:18–23) is a commitment made to God if God sees fit to answer one’s request. This commitment could take the form of money or some other possession that would be turned over to the sanctuary upon the answer to the prayer. . .  One should not speak mindlessly about holy matters.

George Mylne: It is no less a snare for a man, after vows, to make inquiry, in order to evade the obligation of his solemn engagements. Some men are much more forward in making, than in paying vows. Their religion lies in transient flows of affection not in solid piety. When their affections are roused by some remarkable providence, or allured by some pleasant blessing; or roused by some alarming sermon then they are ready with their vows to the Most High God. But when their affections return to their usual temper, they endeavor to find out some shift, to free their consciences from their obligations, which they voluntarily took up on themselves. Their conduct draws them into the snares of the devil, who will suggest an hundred pretenses to excuse the breach of them.

We must therefore be cautious and considerate in making vows and speedy in performing them. If we are Christians, we have engaged ourselves to be the Lord’s. Justice and truth and gratitude require us to pay our vows, and every transgression derives the great aggravation of treachery from our sacred promises. If our promises to men must be kept inviolate then how much more our promise to God! If it is sinful to make inquiry after vows then who can express the guilt that arises out of downright violations of them!

D.  (:26) Purging Evil from the Kingdom

A wise king winnows the wicked,

And drives the threshing wheel over them.

Richard Clifford: In this saying, the royal duty of giving judgment is portrayed in two agricultural images—exposing grain to a current of air so that the chaff is blown away, and rolling a wheel or drum over a cereal to break the husk.

Paul Koptak: The metaphor carries elements of judgment and repayment, just as kings in the ancient Near East were often depicted as driving their chariots over their enemies. Yet this king is not called mighty but “wise,” hinting at his powers of discernment. To “winnow” is also to scatter the chaff to the winds; just as Yahweh scattered the people of Israel in exile (Jer. 31:10), so this wisdom is also power.

Tremper Longman: A wise king is set against evildoers, and he will use his considerable power to destroy them. Evil in the kingdom will destroy it, so before that happens the king should destroy them.

Allen Ross: A wise king purges his kingdom of the wicked. Using loosely synonymous parallelism, the sage draws on the image of winnowing to explain how the king removes evil from his empire. The metaphor implies that the king can identify and rightly judge evildoers. The figure of driving the wheel over them represents a threshing process; the sharp iron wheels of the threshing cart easily served the purpose (cf. Isa 28:27–28). So this image also expresses the king’s discrimination and ability to destroy evil from his domain.


A.  (:27) Function of the God-Given Conscience

The spirit of man is the lamp of the LORD,

Searching all the innermost parts of his being.

Paul Koptak: Yahweh searches out the inner regions, seeking wickedness to drive it out. The image of God’s light searching human interior spaces fits in well with neighboring proverbs on the interior life (20:5–6, 8–9, 26) and the sages’ fascination with the effect of that inner life on human behavior (20:24–25). . .  Wisdom allows a person to do what the lamp does—to reveal what is hidden.

Tremper Longman: The point of the saying is that the person lives only because of Yahweh. The use of nišmâ for “breath” here clearly invites us to recall the very creation of the first human in Gen. 2:7. The lamp image makes more sense in connection with the second colon. In essence, nothing is hidden from the lamplike illumination of Yahweh, who knows us inside and out (Prov. 15:11; Ps. 139).

Allen Ross: The nešāmâ (GK 5972) is that inner spiritual part of human life that was inbreathed at creation (Ge 2:7) and that constitutes humans as spiritual beings with moral, intellectual, and spiritual capacities. This spiritual nature includes the capacity to know and please God—it serves as the functioning conscience (the metaphor of “lamp”).

This point is further developed in the second part; the searching makes it possible for people to know themselves. If one’s spiritual life is functioning properly (i.e., yielded to God through salvation and controlled by his Word [Heb 4:12]), then there should be increasingly less self-deception or indifference to righteousness.

B.  (:28) Righteous Foundations of Government

Loyalty and truth preserve the king,

And he upholds his throne by righteousness.

Richard Clifford: The king is the agent of God and so God protects him as he exercises his important function. The venerable word pair “loyalty and fidelity” are personified as soldiers who protect the throne, but the king also has his role to play. His own conduct also stabilizes the throne. The saying affirms the importance of divine protection and human virtue, without trying to explore the relation between them.

Allen Ross: It is the Lord and his faithfulness to his covenant that ultimately makes the empire secure; but the enjoyment of divine protection requires the king to rule with loyalty to the covenant.

George Mylne: Truth must be joined with mercy in the administration of a good prince. Faithfulness and uprightness, in conjunction with mercy, are the sure and lasting pillars of the throne. If truth and mercy were banished from all the world beside it should be found in the hearts of kings.

C.  (:29) Distinctives of Different Stages in Life

The glory of young men is their strength,

And the honor of old men is their gray hair.

Tremper Longman: This proverb is an observation on what brings glory to young and old men and, in essence, compares them. The observation may serve as motivation for young men to grow in wisdom and for older men not to commiserate for their loss of youthful energy. Vigor has been replaced with something that, certainly within the context of the book of Proverbs, is considered more important: wisdom. The latter is indicated by the reference to gray hair.  Here modern Western society is out of odds with ancient Near Eastern and specifically biblical ideas. Today gray hair is almost something to be ashamed of. Youth now is venerated, but in antiquity gray hair, indicating advanced age, was a sign of distinction. The reason age was respected was that, all things being equal, it meant that a person had matured and was wiser than a youth. Experience would have led to advanced knowledge, and the very fact of surviving to old age meant that life strategies were successful.

Ernest Lucas: Murphy comments, “While the strength of youth is not to be disdained, he has a future to face, and it is there that a true judgment of a person lies.” The sages certainly did not share the modern veneration of youthfulness over age. The story of Rehoboam’s folly (1 Kgs. 12:1-20) provides a lesson for a king of the value of wisdom over the ‘macho’ tendency of youthfulness.

Allen Ross: Both youth and old people have their glory. This observation reminds us that there are different commendations in life. For young men it is strength; for old men it is gray hair.

George Mylne: Equality of age and dispositions naturally produces affection and friendship but difference of age and talents tends too much to produce mutual alienation. To remedy this, the wise man puts the old and the young in mind that each of them have their different endowments, which should endear them to one another.

Old men should not despise the young for their lack of experience and gravity, for God has honored them with vigor of body, which qualifies them for active service to God and their generation. How could old men defend their lives and properties, or how could they exist, if they were not assisted by the strength of the young?

Far less should the young despise the old for their infirmities, or for that fretfulness of temper which old age too often produces. For God has favored them with length of days, and crowned them with gray hair, the badge of their experience, and, it is to be hoped, of their wisdom. If the hoary head is the splendor of old men, it should draw respect from the young, who are commanded by God to rise up before the hoary head, and to honor the face of the old man.

D.  (:30) Benefit of Physical Punishment

Stripes that wound scour away evil,

And strokes reach the innermost parts.

Richard Clifford: The words for “blows” and “wounds” occur together in Isa. 1:6. The meaning may be that outer blows destroy the inner person.

Paul Koptak: Even as Yahweh’s lamp searches out the “inmost being” (ḥadre—beṭen, “the inner chambers of belly”; cf. 20:27), so blows and beatings purge the “inmost being” of evil. The juxtaposition of discernment and judgment that runs throughout the chapter (see 20:8, 26) suggests that one can either acquire the capacity for discernment to discipline self or fail to learn discernment and suffer the discipline of another who has.

Sid S. Buzzell: The purpose of corporal punishment is not to inflict pain but to veer one’s conduct from sin.  Such punishment, however, is not merely to change a person’s conduct out of fear of physical pain but to help him mature (to purge his inmost being; cf. v. 27).

Tremper Longman: Proverbs does not shrink from physical punishment to support the acquisition of wisdom and the concomitant avoidance of evil (10:13; 13:24; 19:18, 25; 20:30; 22:15; 23:13–14; 26:3; 29:15, 17, 19). Though the proverb may be considered harsh, it does not imply that a person would be hurt seriously. Indeed, the obvious fact that evil flourishes among a generation raised on the advice not to inflict physical punishments like spanking calls into serious question whether modern child-rearing strategies are more beneficial than biblical wisdom. The proverb claims that physical punishment does more than produce outward conformity; it also helps transform the heart.