Search Bible Outlines and commentaries


A.  (:1-2) Do Not Envy the Wicked

  1. (:1)  Prohibition – Do Not Envy the Wicked or Associate with Them

Do not be envious of evil men,

Nor desire to be with them;

Paul Koptak: The choice of companions often begins in the desire to emulate. But what kind of company can one have with people who think and speak about trouble? What is there to envy except easy gain?

Tremper Longman: In the present passage, association with the wicked is prohibited because the sages understood the power of influence. If one envies and associates with evil people, then it is more than likely that they will become evil themselves. The second verse reminds the reader of the nature of evil people, once again showing the connection between the heart and lips. Their heart, representing their inner character, desires destruction, so their lips speak trouble that will lead to their ultimate goal.

  1. (:2)  Rationale – They Cause Trouble

For their minds devise violence,

And their lips talk of trouble.

Richard Clifford: This admonition occurs three times in the thirty sayings (23:17–18, here, and 24:19–20). Common to all the admonitions is the verb qannē’, “to be jealous, zealous, envious,” which also occurs in 1:15–19 and 3:31. The motive stated in the first and the third occurrence—the wicked have no future—is expressed indirectly here. Their malicious planning and speaking invites retribution. Verses 7–9 and 10–12 detail their self-destruction.

Matthew Henry: Do not speak like them, for their lips talk of their mischief. All they say has an ill tendency, to dishonour God, reproach religion, or wrong their neighbour; but it will be mischief to themselves at last. It is therefore thy wisdom to have nothing to do with them. Nor hast thou any reason to look upon them with envy, but with pity rather, or a just indignation at their wicked practices.

David Guzik: The kind of evil this proverb has in mind is the kind associated with violence and troublemaking. The seemingly quick and easy money and status gained through violence and troublemaking is a temptation to be resisted.

Lindsay Wilson: The nature of their evil (rā‘â) is not specified in verse 1, but it involves what they are like on the inside (their hearts) and their outward speech (their lips). They internally ‘plot/plan’ violent destruction (šōd), and use their speech to create mischief/trouble (‘āmāl, v. 2; 1:11–16). Trouble commonly has the sense of ‘work’ or ‘toil’, but here means mischief or harm (as in Job 4:8; Ps. 10:7). We need to choose our friends well, and seek out a helpful group of companions.

B.  (:3-4) Build Your Life on Wisdom

  1. (:3)  Wisdom Provides the Best Foundation

By wisdom a house is built,

And by understanding it is established;

Paul Koptak: Wealth may be obtained by violence and deceit (24:1–2; cf. 1:13), but only by wisdom does one have a place to live. This theme is picked up in 24:27–34; without wise work in the field, the house will be empty.

Tremper Longman: Wisdom implies the ability to say the right thing and act the right way to build up community and not destroy it. We should also remember that Yahweh constructed the cosmos by means of his wisdom (3:19–20; 8:22–31). We also think of Prov. 31:10–31, where the noble woman builds her house through wisdom.

  1. (:4)  Wisdom Provides the Best Blessings

And by knowledge the rooms are filled

With all precious and pleasant riches.

Allen Ross: In 9:1 wisdom is personified as a woman who builds a house, but here the emphasis is primarily on the building—it is a sign of security and prosperity (Toy, 442). One could make a secondary application to building a family (cf. Ps 127). Plaut, 247, observes: “The replacement of book shelves by television sets and of the study by the ‘den’ in modern homes (regressing from human to bestial habitats!) is a sad commentary on our times.” It certainly is true that if it takes wisdom to build a house, it also takes wisdom to build a household.

Lindsay Wilson: a picture of delighting in life’s overflowing blessings (see 3:9–10).

C.  (:5-6) Gain Power for Victory from Wisdom

  1. (:5)  Wisdom Leads to Strength

A wise man is strong,

And a man of knowledge increases power.

Tremper Longman: Indeed, the value of wisdom is not that it necessarily avoids war, but that it can provide the strategy through which strength can find its most efficient expression and thus lead to victory. Ecclesiastes provides statements and anecdotes that back this up and yet also acknowledge that ultimately even wisdom itself has its limits (7:19; 9:13–16).

  1. (:6)  Wise Counselors Lead to Victory

For by wise guidance you will wage war,

And in abundance of counselors there is victory.

Richard Clifford: The paradox that the wise are mightier than warriors is proven true in war. Though usually regarded as a showcase of physical strength, war is in fact won by brains not brawn.

Lindsay Wilson: The positive value of wisdom is set out in these verses, which claim that the guidance wisdom gives is stronger than physical or military power. Real strength is found in a wise person, a man of knowledge (v. 5). Strength must be harnessed to some goal, and the wise have the power to live the good life to its fullest extent, which will include self-control, humility and concern for the community. Similarly, military battles are not always won by the army with the most resources, because it is the tactical decisions that hold greater sway. Thus, verse 6 affirms that proper guidance, part of the goal of the book (1:5), is crucial for military success, as is the advice of many counsellors (11:14; 20:18; 21:22). A key element of being wise is knowing the limits of our wisdom, and therefore looking to wise advisors. If this is so for times of war, it can also be applied to other occasions as well.

D.  (:7-9) Mark People Devoid of Wisdom

Tremper Longman: This unit is bound together by the repetition of the term “stupid people” (ʾĕwîl/ʾiwwelet) in vv. 7–9. In vv. 8 and 9 is also the repetition of nouns built on the verbal stem zmm, meaning “scheming.” The purpose is to negatively characterize stupid people as those who in the final colon are identified as mockers, the most extreme form of fools.

Stupid people cannot be wise because it is beyond them, with the result that they are quiet in a key place of community leadership: “the gate.” They may not plan beneficial community strategy in a public place like the gate, but they do plot and secretly scheme in a way that is destructive to the community. The latter we can derive from the fact that it is called “evil” and “sin.” The final colon reveals that the community despises such people. As Clifford puts it, “Folly . . . alienates one from the community.”

  1. (:7)  Fools

Wisdom is too high for a fool,

He does not open his mouth in the gate.

Richard Clifford: According to v. 7 fools can neither grasp nor express wisdom.

Paul Koptak: If guidance and counsel help one win a battle, the fool has none to give at the gate, where public decisions and judgments are made (24:7).

Charles Bridges: The commendation of wisdom continues.  The person who is richly endowed with wisdom comes with authority and speaks at the gate among the wise.  The fool, destitute of wisdom, is barred from such an honor.  The simple and diligent prove that the treasure is not really out of reach; but it is too high for a fool.  His groveling mind can never rise to so lofty a matter.  He has no understanding of it, no heart to desire it, no energy to hold it.  Its holy spirituality is too high for his reach.  Nobody seeks his counsel.  His opinion, if given, is of no account.  While he may have a babbling tongue in the street, at the gate he has nothing to say.  He is totally unfit to give judgment in the presence of wise and judicious men.  This is not the result of any natural defect, but the result of deliberate perverseness.

George Mylne: A fool does not see the excellency of wisdom. Although he may value the reputation of it yet he lacks eyes to behold the real glory of wisdom. Or if he has any sense of its value yet he cannot bring his mind to that degree of care, and diligence, and self-denial, which is necessary to obtain the knowledge of it. Far less can he resist the imperious tyranny of his passions, to put his soul under the government of wisdom. Therefore he continues a fool under all the means of wisdom that are used with him. A desire to get wisdom is of no use but to render his folly more inexcusable. For he has no heart to it but is deeply in love with his folly, and must bear the shame and misery to which it exposes him.

  1. (:8)  Evil Schemers

He who plans to do evil,

Men will call him a schemer.

Allen Ross: The general public disapproves of a wicked person who plots evil things. The picture of the wicked person is graphic: he devises evil and is a schemer, a sinner, and a scorner (lēṣ). Zimmâ is “scheme”; elsewhere it describes outrageous and lewd schemes (see Lev 18:17; Jdg 20:6). Here the description “schemer” (baʿal-mezimmôt) portrays him as a cold, calculating, active person: “the fool is capable of intense mental activity (mezimmâ) but it adds up to sin” (McKane, 399). This type of person flouts all morality, and sooner or later the public will have had enough of him.

Charles Bridges: vv. 8-9 – What a picture of human depravity is given here.  We see its active working, its corrupt source, and its fearful end!  Talent, imagination, and an active mind are so debased as to be all concentrated on Satan’s own work.

George Mylne: Words are insufficient to express the malignity of that man’s heart, who needs no temptation from the devil at all but contrives and plots sin in his own mind, spending his thoughts devising iniquity when he is lying on his bed, or sitting in his house, and searching out the most dextrous and effectual methods of gratifying his own depraved mind, and doing harm to others.

  1. (:9)  Scoffers

The devising of folly is sin,

And the scoffer is an abomination to men.

George Mylne: Earthly judges cannot penetrate into the hearts of men, and have no business with their secret thoughts but it is the glory of the universal Judge, that He is the sovereign and searcher of minds. He requires from us, truth in our inward parts; and when he comes to judge the world, all shall know that he searches the hearts, and tries the thoughts of men.

E.  (:10-12) Support Neighbors in Danger

Richard Clifford: Excuses for not coming to the aid of the neighbor in distress do not suffice before the God who sees through self-serving excuses. The context escapes us. Is this about the judicial process (Plöger) or more generally about the necessity of every person to stand up for justice in serious cases?

  1. (:10) Show Strength, Not Weakness at Crisis Time

If you are slack in the day of distress,

Your strength is limited.

David Guzik: The day of adversity did not make your strength small; it revealed your  strength to be small. There is a sense in which we should welcome the day of adversity as a revelation of our strength or weakness.

Paul Koptak: The one who falters in 24:10 is one who has little strength (cf. 24:5); the repetition of the root for “trouble” (ṣrr) allows for a literal translation, “You let down in the day of trouble; troubled, your strength!” This saying may be the climax to 24:1–10, but it also continues into the pair at 24:11–12. If so, then your strength has faltered when you have been called on to help others.

Allen Ross: Test of Adversity — How well one does under adverse conditions reveals how strong that person is. The verse uses a paronomasia to stress the connection: “If you falter in the times of trouble [ṣārâ], / how small [ṣar] is your strength!” You never know your strength until you are put into situations that demand much from you. Of course, a weak person will plead adverse situations or conditions in order to quit (Kidner, 154).

George Mylne: As gold is tried in the fire, so our strength is tried in the furnace of affliction. And surely when men are tried, it is their interest and honor to see that they come forth as gold, and not as reprobate silver. Trials are necessary for us, and appointed to us and the times of trial are critical seasons. Therefore we ought to be prepared for them, that the trial of our faith may be found unto praise, and honor, and glory. But how shall we be furnished with strength to stand in the evil day? Paul gives us necessary directions for this purpose. Christ is the author of all grace. Faith, hope and patience, are fruits of his Spirit; and we must not only receive those militant graces but depend on his power to maintain them in our souls. And then neither persecution, nor distress, nor anything else shall be able to overthrow our souls, or destroy our comfort.

  1. (:11)  Rescue Those in Mortal Danger

Deliver those who are being taken away to death,

And those who are staggering to slaughter, O hold them back.

Tremper Longman: The death is not the result of an actual killing, but rather of foolish behavior that leads to death. For instance, Prov. 7 pictures a young man who goes to a promiscuous woman, and the sage likens him to an ox going off to the slaughter. If this type of situation is implied, then the passage is a call to courage for trying to stop people from their foolish behavior, with its consequences of death.

Lindsay Wilson: Behind these ideas is the principle of taking initiative to help others, even if it is not our specific responsibility (see the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25–37). This leads nicely on to the reason for being proactive in our care of those who are suffering. We are going to face an evaluation of our lives by God (v. 12). God is described obliquely as the one who weighs the heart (21:2) and the one ‘who guards your life’ (similarly, 2:8, but often using wisdom, 2:11). We cannot plead a lack of knowledge of the need, because God knows and evaluates not simply our words but our inner beings (the heart). God guards our life (so niv), rather than our soul (as in esv/nrsv), since he is keeping watch over all of our life, not just one part of it. Verse 12 climaxes in the clearest expression of our accountability in the retribution principle that he will repay us according to our earthly work. This is also a NT principle (e.g. 2 Cor. 5:10), and one that does not undermine the doctrine of grace.

David Guzik: The story of Esther is one wonderful example of someone who did deliver those who are drawn towards death. Esther’s courage saved her people, even when it would have been easy for her to ignore her duty.

Matthew Henry: A great duty required of us, and that is to appear for the relief of oppressed innocency. If we see the lives or livelihoods of any in danger of being taken away unjustly, we ought to bestir ourselves all we can to save them, by disproving the false accusations on which they are condemned and seeking out proofs of their innocency. Though the persons be not such as we are under any particular obligation to, we must help them, out of a general zeal for justice. If any be set upon by force and violence, and it be in our power to rescue them, we ought to do it. Nay, if we see any through ignorance exposing themselves to danger, or fallen in distress, as travellers upon the road, ships at sea, or any the like, it is our duty, though it be with peril to ourselves, to hasten with help to them and not forbear to deliver them, not to be slack, or remiss, or indifferent, in such a case.

George Mylne: God is the keeper of our souls, and therefore we need not be afraid to risk our lives in obedience to his will. We cannot exist one moment without his kind providence so why should we scruple to risk everything dear to us in the service of him in whom we live, move, and have our being? We are always safe in the way of duty and we are never safe in neglect of it. For safety comes from the Lord our judge and lawgiver; and if our lives are exposed in his service, be can easily preserve them, or compensate the loss, if he allows them to be taken from us. But if we preserve them by declining our duty, we expose them to more dreadful dangers than death.

  1. (:12)  Don’t Make Excuses for Not Helping

If you say, “See, we did not know this,”

Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts?

And does He not know it who keeps your soul?

And will He not render to man according to his work?

Paul Koptak: There are no valid excuses for standing idle when it is possible to help. The fourth line restates a common theme, that Yahweh will pay back according to deeds.

Caleb Nelson: Proposition: Every Christian is responsible to protect human life, according to his or her place and calling.

I.  The Command: Protect Those Whose Life Is Endangered, v. 11

II.  The Method: According to Your Own Place and Calling, Matthew 25:31-46

III.  The Warning, v. 12

A.  Ignorance Is No Excuse, v. 12a

B.  The Judge Is Watching, v. 12b

C.  The Penalty Is Certain, v. 12c

F.  (:13-14) Wisdom Is Sweet and Offers a Desirable Future

  1. (:13)  Wisdom is Sweet to the Taste

My son, eat honey, for it is good,

Yes, the honey from the comb is sweet to your taste;

Allen Ross: One should develop wisdom because it has a profitable future. The proverb draws on the image of honey; its health-giving properties make a good analogy to wisdom. While the literal instruction is to eat and enjoy honey, the point is to know wisdom.

  1. (:14)  Wisdom Provides a Desirable Future

Know that wisdom is thus for your soul;

If you find it, then there will be a future,

And your hope will not be cut off.

Tremper Longman: The benefit of wisdom is that it provides a future for a person. It gives that person hope. At the simplest level, this would refer to the fact that living by the principles of wisdom as enunciated by Proverbs would provide the strategy to avoid problems that might lead to an early death. On the other hand, and certainly read from a canonical perspective, the pursuit of wisdom that entails a relationship with divine Wisdom would lead to life even beyond death.


A.  (:15-16) Do Not Attack the Righteous Who Will Always Rise Again

  1. (:15)  Prohibition – Don’t Attack the Righteous

Do not lie in wait, O wicked man,

against the dwelling of the righteous;

Do not destroy his resting place;

Allen Ross: It is futile and self-defeating to mistreat God’s people, for they survive, whereas the wicked do not! The warning is against attacking the righteous; to attack them is to attack God and his program, and that will fail (see Mt 16:18). The consequence, and thus the motivation, is that if the righteous suffer misfortune any number of times (= “seven times,” v.16), they will rise again; for virtue triumphs in the end (Whybray, 140). Conversely, the wicked will not survive; without God they have no power to rise from misfortune. The point, then, is that ultimately the righteous will triumph and those who oppose them will stumble over their evil.

George Mylne: It is vain for the wicked to hope that they shall be able to do any real harm to the righteous. They may flatter themselves with the hopes of success in their unrighteous designs; they see the righteous fall before them, and persuade themselves that they shall not be able to arise but the God who maintains their cause, allows them to fall into trouble to try and refine them, and when he has accomplished his work upon them, will raise them up with renewed vigor, and take a severe vengeance upon their enemies.

  1. (:16)  Rationale – You Can’t Keep the Righteous Down

For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again,

But the wicked stumble in time of calamity.

Paul Koptak: The righteous may fall, but they rise again—not like the wicked, who are brought down for good (cf. 4:19; Jer. 6:15; 8:15; 20:11).

Richard Clifford: In this saying, the ambusher rather than the ambushed is the one actually in danger, for the righteous person always (“seven times”) makes a comeback. The wicked person, however, is tripped up by only one fall—perhaps the very act of ambushing. The proverb can be extended to ethics generally, where it is a sign of a righteous person to be able to rise up after a fall (Alonso Schökel).

Tremper Longman: From the proverb, the sages understood that the righteous wise would suffer in life, but they also have the endurance to withstand the attacks of life. Life may beat them down, but they have hope (previous passage) because of wisdom. They see beyond the present misfortune. The number “seven” is to be understood not literally but rather as a symbolic number for completeness, meaning that the righteous will always get up. On the other hand, the wicked will fall easily.

Lindsay Wilson: The idea of retribution is not that righteousness is always rewarded on every occasion, but rather over the course of one’s life. Verse 16 makes it clear that a righteous person can fall (suffer a setback, reversal or difficulty) seven times (symbolic of completeness), even though that is not the end (Ps. 34:19 [Heb. 20]). This makes it important for us not to judge a person’s righteousness only by their current circumstances. Of course, life also tells us that there are many other reasons (famine, being born in a poor country, etc.) why people do not prosper materially. Yet there is a truth that those who live in a way intended by God will find ‘the good life’ (including in its fullest NT sense), while those who take the path of folly will experience obstacles in their pathway.

Charles Bridges: Hatred toward the righteous is deeply rooted in wicked men.  They imagine, especially if they are in power, that they can tyrannize them with impunity.  But remember that anyone who touches any of God’s followers touches the apple of God’s eye (Zechariah 2:8).

B.  (:17-18) Do Not Gloat over Fallen Enemies

  1. (:17)  Prohibition – Do Not Gloat

Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,

And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles;

Paul Koptak: Yahweh would rather have us rejoice over rescues (cf. 24:11–12) and leave matters of judgment to him (see 24:19–20).

  1. (:18)  Rationale – God May Reverse His Punishment

Lest the LORD see it and be displeased,

And He turn away His anger from him.

Allen Ross: The point is a little complicated. It is the property of God to judge, and it is not to be taken lightly or personalized. God’s judgment should strike a note of fear in the hearts of everyone (see Lev 19:17–18; Mt 5:44). So if we want God to continue his anger on our enemies (by implication, the wicked), we should not gloat at their punishment. The proverb refers to personal enemies; the imprecatory psalms, directed against the enemies of God and his program, address a different set of circumstances.

Lindsay Wilson: The reason given in verse 18 is quite unexpected for a proverb. We are to avoid gloating over our enemy’s setbacks lest the Lord sees us gloating, is displeased by our attitude, and turns back his anger from our enemy. In other words, if we delight in our enemies tripping up, God will help them. God is even prepared to aid those who oppose him.

George Mylne: The whole book of Obadiah seems to be written to show the miseries which men bring upon themselves, by triumphing in the ruin of their enemies; and many chapters of the Bible insist on the same necessary subject.

C.  (:19-20) Do Not Envy Evildoers

  1. (:19)  Prohibition – Do Not Envy Evildoers

Do not fret because of evildoers,

Or be envious of the wicked;

Lindsay Wilson: Evildoers are not to be envied or feared as they have no prospect of a life that can be enjoyed (23:17–18; 24:1–2).

  1. (:20)  Rationale – Consider Their Destiny

For there will be no future for the evil man;

The lamp of the wicked will be put out.

Tremper Longman: This passage is the third time within the “sayings of the wise” where the sage warns against envy toward wicked people (see also 23:17–18; 24:1–2). It must have been a common temptation for the wise to get their blood boiling as they saw godless people do well in life. In the present passage, appeal is made to the lack of “future” for the wicked, which certainly implies that the godly have a future. In regard to the nature of the future envisioned here, it certainly is true that this passage and ones like them could not be used to proof-text a belief in the afterlife. On the other hand, it seems banal to the extreme to think that the sages were thinking only of this life. After all, if the passage is alluding to physical death in v. 20, the sages were smart enough to know that the wise too died, and some of them even died at a young age. At the least, this passage is suggestive of the idea that life lasted beyond the grave.

Bruce Waltke: Keeping the extinction of their lamp in view will extinguish burning envy.

D.  (:21-22) Do Not Associate with Rebels but Fear the Lord and the King

  1. (:21)  Prohibition – Do Not Associate with Rebels

My son, fear the LORD and the king;

Do not associate with those who are given to change;

Tremper Longman: Sages knew that successful living came from knowing one’s right place in the power structure of the universe and their culture. They understood that it was important to respect the powers above them, both divine and human. This is particularly the case when those powers have the ability to destroy them. The latter is certainly the case with both God and king. Here is an unusual collocation of “God” and “king.” We might consider the fact that the proverb likely presumes a godly king who would reflect God’s kingship.

Allen Ross: People should fear both God and the government, for both punish rebels.

David Guzik: The revolutionary often finds that their calamity will rise suddenly, and they can bring great ruin in their revolution.

Charles Bridges: Man’s independence, however, naturally kicks against submission.  Men love change for the sake of change.  To become leaders of a party, they disturb the public peace by proposing changes, without any promise of solid advantage.  “He who goes about,” says our judicious Hooker, “to persuade men that they are not so well governed as they ought to be shall never lack attention and favorable hearers.”  Beware of the destruction that the Lord and the king may inflict on those who despise their authority.

Matthew Henry: Religion and loyalty must go together. As men, it is our duty to honour our Creator, to worship and reverence him, and to be always in his fear; as members of a community, incorporated for mutual benefit, it is our duty to be faithful and dutiful to the government God has set over us, Rom. 13:1, 2. Those that are truly religious will be loyal, in conscience towards God; the godly in the land will be the quite in the land; and those are not truly loyal, or will be so no longer than is for their interest, that are not religious. How should he be true to his prince that is false to his God? And, if they come in competition, it is an adjudged case, we must obey God rather than men.

George Mylne: How many were destroyed in the gainsaying of Korah, and in the rebellion of Absalom? Who knows what ruin awaits those who are guilty of rebellion, which is as the sin of witch craft; or how suddenly the tempest of vengeance may hurl those men into perdition, who fear not God, or do not reverence those who are authorized by him to administer justice among men.

  1. (:22)  Rationale – Consider Their Destiny

For their calamity will rise suddenly,

And who knows the ruin that comes from both of them?

Paul Koptak: Like the descriptions of the wicked in 24:16–17, 20, the rebels’ downfall is certain, but it comes suddenly, beyond expectation and prediction (“Who can know”; cf. “know” in 24:14). The dangers of bad association have been highlighted throughout the words of the wise (22:24–27; 23:20–21; 24:1); this final word assures us that there is no alliance that can withstand the wrath of God and king.