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These also are sayings of the wise.

Paul Koptak: A new section begins with the title, “These also are sayings of the wise.” It is distinct from the “sayings of the wise” (22:17 – 24:22) in what it lacks: There is no father’s address to son or any mention of Yahweh or wisdom. It does present further instruction on right judgment and a first-person moral tale in which a sage reports on a learning experience (cf. 4:3–9; 7:6–23; also Ps. 37:35–36).  The two overlap in something like a dovetail joint.

Lindsay Wilson: There are two useful ways of structuring the material.

  • It can be grouped into verses 23–25 (the role of judges in administering justice); verses 26–29 (promoting community in speech and work); and verses 30–34 (the folly of laziness).
  • Alternatively, there could be two parallel sections (23–27, 28–34), each starting with a focus on the law courts (vv. 23–25, 28–29) then moving on to daily life (speech and work in vv. 26–27; laziness in vv. 30–34).

Perhaps it is part of the cleverness of Proverbs that both structures seem grounded in the text, but the first has most to commend it.


A.  (:23) Condemnation of Showing Partiality in Judgment

To show partiality in judgment

is not good.

Josh Moody: Bias in judgment is a cruel and terrible thing. Be careful that we do not act in partisan or tribal ways when we have the responsibility for making decisions about other people’s lives.

Trapp: Hebrew, To know faces; to regard not so much the matter as the man; to hear persons speak, and not causes; to judge not according to truth and equity, but according to opinion and appearance – to fear or favour.

Matthew Henry: As subjects must do their duty, and be obedient to magistrates, so magistrates must do their duty in administering justice to their subjects, both in pleas of the crown and causes between party and party. These are lessons for them.

  1. They must always weigh the merits of a cause, and not be swayed by any regard, one way or other, to the parties concerned: It is not good in itself, nor can it ever do well, to have respect of persons in judgment; the consequences of it cannot but be the perverting of justice and doing wrong under colour of law and equity. A good judge will know the truth, not know faces, so as to countenance a friend and help him out in a bad cause, or so much as omit any thing that can be said or done in favour of a righteous cause, when it is the cause of an enemy.
  2. They must never connive at or encourage wicked people in their wicked practices.

B.  (:24-25) Consequences of Judging Wrongly or Rightly

  1. (:24) Judging Wrongly

He who says to the wicked, “You are righteous,”

Peoples will curse him, nations will abhor him;

Richard Clifford: The motive proffered for judges to be even-handed in the courtroom is the universal abhorrence they will incur if they let off the guilty. On the other hand, happiness and blessings will be theirs if they judge justly.

Tremper Longman: No reasons are given for this faulty judgment, but since it probably presumes that the judges know better, it may envision a bribe and the possibility that the defendant is a crony of those making judgments.

  1. (:25) Judging Rightly

But to those who rebuke the wicked will be delight,

And a good blessing will come upon them.

George Mylne: Those magistrates who faithfully execute their trust, shall have much pleasure from the testimony of their own hearts, and from the happy effects of their faithful and impartial administrations. They shall have the blessings of those who live under their government and the blessings of men, when they are well earned, are ratified by God.


Lindsay Wilson: These verses all deal with some aspects of being members of the community, either in what we say (vv. 26, 28–29) or how we work constructively (v. 27). While verses 28–29 address how to behave in a court setting, they deal with how to act as a witness not a judge. The principle behind the exhortations will also have a wider application in society. . .

Honest and gracious words are not only good work priorities, but also build up our community. Benefiting others strengthens our society, while being self-serving and vindictive does not.

A.  (:26) Benefit Others by Speaking Honestly

He kisses the lips

Who gives a right answer.

Tremper Longman: This stand-alone proverb repeats a thought commonly heard in proverbs, that truth is not only right but also beneficial (12:17, 19; 14:25). Kissing and truth-telling are two positive and pleasurable acts one can perform or receive from lips. Telling the truth is a kind act.

Derek Kidner: Note the paradox, that a proper forthrightness, costly though it may seem, wins gratitude, and has its special charm.

Lindsay Wilson: An honest answer is commended. The absence of any legal language, and the surrounding community setting, suggest that verse 26 has honest speech in general in view (so Clifford 1999: 217). The phrase kisses the lips (v. 26b) is not found elsewhere in the OT. Kissing is sometimes an action of affection or homage, neither of which suits the context here. DCH suggests it means ‘seal’ and so ‘be silent’ (as in similar expressions in Gen. 41:40; Job 31:27). Certainly, the act of kissing involves putting the lips together, so the idea here is that once you have said all that needs to be said, you add nothing else. This seems better than the niv suggestion that an honest answer is ‘like’ a kiss on the lips (i.e. something delightful). While this is also true, the preposition ‘like’ is not part of the Hebrew text, nor does it seem implied. Waltke (2005: 293) argues that the ‘saying instructs the disciple to express his devotion to his superiors or peers by giving a straightforward, not devious and/or distorted, answer’.

Paul Koptak: Lips that speak truth are like lips that kiss. The kiss in the ancient world communicated loyalty as well as affection. The honest answer comes from one who (lit.) “returns words that are right” (cf. 22:21).  Interpreters debate whether the legal context of 24:23–25 determines the meaning.  The main comparison is that of doing good for another with one’s lips, a strong contrast to the deceitful lips of 24:28.

Richard Clifford: the kiss is a gesture of respect and affection. The greatest sign of affection and respect for another is to tell that person the truth.

George Mylne: History of all ages proves the truth of this proverb. When we are asked an important question, or consulted on an affair of consequence, every man will esteem and love us, if we give an honest answer; and that our answer may be honest, it is necessary that it should be sincere, prudent, and meek. We must not give an answer calculated merely to please the person who questions us. For that would not be consistent with integrity. We must consider all the circumstances of the affair, that we may give a proper and pertinent answer; and we must speak with that meekness, which renders wisdom lovely. If our answers to those who question us have these qualifications, although they may be sometimes distasteful, because truth compels us to speak things disagreeable yet they will tend, on the whole, to the advancement of our character. Our character is no contemptible object, because the goodness of it is necessary for us in accomplishing the great business of life, glorifying God, and doing good to men.

B.  (:27) Work Diligently as the Priority before Comfort

Prepare your work outside,

And make it ready for yourself in the field;

Afterwards, then, build your house.

Lindsay Wilson: The saying clearly endorses hard work and diligent preparation, but it also requires an appropriate set of priorities. At the very least, as Garrett (1993: 201) suggests, it means that ‘one should not provide for personal comfort until a means of income is established’ (similarly McKane 1970: 576, ‘Wealth must be produced before it is consumed’). Doing tasks in the right order is also an important aspect of wisdom.

Allen Ross: A man should be financially secure before starting a family. Before entering marriage one should have a well-ordered life. Whybray, 153, thinks that the meaning is not restricted to marriage but in general teaches us to keep first things first.

George Mylne: Solomon takes it for granted, that we have already a house in which we can live, and enjoy shelter from the inclemencies of the weather but perhaps we wish to have a more elegant and commodious house. A wish of this kind is not unreasonable, only it must be kept in due subordination to our most important concerns. The work of the field, on which our subsistence depends, is of more importance than the building of a better house, and ought therefore to be first attended to. And then we are at liberty to build our house, if we can afford time and money for it. . .

God is a God of order; and he requires us to do all things in their proper order, both in our civil and religious business.

C.  (:28-29) Avoid the Temptation to Harm Your Neighbor

  1. (:28)  Do Not Be a False Witness

Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause,

And do not deceive with your lips.

Richard Clifford: Lying witnesses use their lips to deceive, which is a dishonorable thing. In the long run, a false witness will suffer loss of reputation by practicing deceit. Cf. Ex. 20:16; Deut. 5:20.

Charles Bridges: The welfare of society may sometimes constrain a witness to testify against his neighbor, but this must never be without cause.  Yet when compelled to this unpleasant duty, whatever the temptation or consequence is, do not use your lips to deceive.  Speak plainly, truthfully, the whole truth.

George Mylne: We must not deceive with our lips, either before a judge or in private conversation. The gift of speech was given to us for glorifying God, and doing good to men. It is a wicked perversion of it to make use of it for dishonoring God and deceiving men, by flattery or falsehood, or by speaking truth in such a manner as to deceive.

  1. (:29)  Do Not Seek Revenge

Do not say, ‘Thus I shall do to him as he has done to me;

I will render to the man according to his work.’

Josh Moody: Revenge can seem sweet, but it will only start a feud. Look at Christ and for his sake forgive.

Trapp: Nothing is more natural than revenge of wrongs, and the world approves it as right temper, true touch, as to put up wrongs is held cowardice and unmanliness. But we have not so learned Christ.

Richard Clifford: The admonition forbids using the principle, “I will treat others as they have treated me.” Though the principle may seem reasonable at first hearing, it comes perilously close to playing God, for the statement “I will repay each individual as his deed deserves” is a quote of the divine speech in 24:12d, where it is God who repays each person. Proverbs here and in 24:17–18 warns against interfering with the divine process of retribution, which has its own dynamic. Relationships between people cannot be ruled by human beings taking vengeance into their own hands. Cf. 20:22.

George Mylne: When we revenge injuries at our own discretion, we may do hurt to our enemies but we do much greater hurt to ourselves. For the punishment of malice and revenge to which we expose ourselves, is far worse than any vengeance which our feeble arm can inflict. Let us therefore show ourselves to be the disciples of Christ, by loving our enemies and recompensing evil with good. Thus we shall heap coals of fire upon the head of our enemies, to melt them but by following an opposite course, we heap them on our own, to our destruction.

Matthew Henry: Even a righteous cause becomes unrighteous when it is thus prosecuted with malice. Say not, I will render to the man according to his work, and make him pay dearly for it; for it is God’s prerogative to do so, and we must leave it to him, and not step into his throne, or take his work out of his hands. If we will needs be our own carvers, and judges in our own cause, we forfeit the benefit of an appeal to God’s tribunal; therefore we must not avenge ourselves, because he has said, Vengeance is mine.


A.  (:30-31) Description of the Vineyard of the Sluggard

  1. (:30)  Character of the Sluggard

I passed by the field of the sluggard,

And by the vineyard of the man lacking sense;

Tremper Longman: Laziness is the height of foolish behavior and deserves to be parodied. After all, it leads to difficult consequences for both the individual and the community, and it is easily remedied. The latter is the case for true laziness, not lack of work for other reasons such as disability. If one is simply lazy, then the antidote is hard work.

George Mylne: The sluggard is wise in his own conceit but in Solomon’s judgment, sluggard is another name for a man void of understanding. For what understanding can that man have who buries himself alive, and neither performs the duties of life, nor takes the proper method of being able to enjoy and relish its comforts.

  1. (:31)  Condition of His Vineyard

And behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles,

Its surface was covered with nettles,

And its stone wall was broken down.

Lindsay Wilson: Even basic maintenance of a vineyard would involve clearing away thorns and weeds/nettles (see the mention of the sluggard and thorns in 15:19). In the hill country of Israel stone walls were used to terrace slopes, enabling trees to take root and preventing water from running away. Failure to maintain such walls was self-destructive (see the positive pattern in Isa. 28:24–29, using wisdom language).

George Mylne: How could it be otherwise? Thorns and thistles, since the fall of man, spring up everywhere, to remind us of our rebellion against God and the greatest industry can scarcely keep them down. But where slothfulness leaves them to spring up at will, the field must be covered with them, and every useful plant choked. Or, if anything useful springs up among them, it becomes a prey to every spoiler, because the stone wall is broken down and left in ruins. Such is the situation of the sluggard’s field and vineyard!

Just so, spiritual sloth is productive of the like effects in the soul of man. If we are careless about our spiritual interests, our souls will soon be overrun with noisome and pernicious vice, and left without guard against those destructive enemies, “who go about seeking whom they may devour.”

A neglected garden is disagreeable to the eye but a neglected soul is a spectacle of horror! The stinging nettles of envy, the thorns of anger, and ungovernable lusts spring up abundantly in that scene of desolation. Every lust and every temptation have an uncontrolled influence and the roaring lion out of the bottomless pit wastes it at his pleasure!

Matthew Henry: Note:

(1.)  Our souls are our fields and vineyards, which we are every one of us to take care of, to dress, and to keep. They are capable of being improved with good husbandry; that may be got out of them which will be fruit abounding to our account. We are charged with them, to occupy them till our Lord come; and a great deal of care and pains it is requisite that we should take about them.

(2.)  These fields and vineyards are often in a very bad state, not only no fruit brought forth, but all overgrown with thorns and nettles (scratching, stinging, inordinate lusts and passions, pride, covetousness, sensuality, malice, those are the thorns and nettles, the wild grapes, which the unsanctified heart produces), no guard kept against the enemy, but the stone-wall broken down, and all lies in common, all exposed.

(3.)  Where it is thus it is owing to the sinner’s own slothfulness and folly. He is a sluggard, loves sleep, hates labour; and he is void of understanding, understands neither his business nor his interest; he is perfectly besotted.

(4.)  The issue of it will certainly be the ruin of the soul and all its welfare. It is everlasting want that thus comes upon it as an armed man. We know the place assigned to the wicked and slothful servant.

B.  (32-34) Destiny of Poverty for the Sluggard

  1. (:32)  Life Lessons Based on Reflection

When I saw, I reflected upon it;

I looked, and received instruction.

George Mylne: Our wisdom lies in learning from the example of other men, compared with the law of God, what we are to do, and what we are to avoid. We see the sluggard, the drunkard, the lukewarm professor but we see no good arising out of their vices but much harm to themselves. They are condemned by the providence as well as the Word of God. Their souls are unprosperous, and the outward circumstances of some of those kinds of sinners, have the marks of divine displeasure mingled with them.

Is it not better to learn wisdom at the cost of other people, than at our own expense? Solomon learned instruction from this dismal spectacle, the field and vineyard of the sluggard; and the instruction which he received, he communicates to us in a proverb, which, for its importance, is repeated from a former chapter.

  1. (:33-34)  Life Lessons Make the Connection between Laziness and Poverty

a.  (:33)  Cause = Laziness

A little sleep, a little slumber,

A little folding of the hands to rest,

George Mylne: The sluggard had no intention of allowing his field to be all covered with weeds, he only wished to indulge himself a little while in ease and sleep, and then he designed to rouse himself and root up all the weeds. His ruin was, that, when he had got a little sleep, he wished for a little more; and when he had taken the little more, he felt himself as little disposed to work as before. And so he loitered and wasted away the time, day after day, doing nothing at all, or nothing to purpose until his field was all overrun with noisome weeds, and every good plant destroyed, and his vineyard lay in ruins. Thus poverty came upon him swiftly and unexpectedly, and with irresistible fury, and plunged him into the gulf of misery and remorse!

Would you avoid sloth? Beware of every temptation to it, and allow no place to any thought of delaying a necessary business. It was a maxim of a certain prince, who was celebrated for his success in every undertaking, never to defer that until tomorrow, that which should be done to day. Putting off things until tomorrow, is the thief of time. It is unsafe in any business. It is infinitely dangerous in our spiritual concerns. Boast not therefore of tomorrow. For you know not what a day may bring forth but whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might!

b.  (:34) Consequence = Poverty

Then your poverty will come as a robber,

And your want like an armed man.

Lindsay Wilson: As seen elsewhere in the book, laziness is not criminally wrong, but simply self-destructive. Failure to work or produce anything leads to the possession of no food, and no means to buy any. While sluggards are described in comic terms, their life is really a tragic mistake.

David Guzik: This is the destiny of the lazy man or woman. Because of their sinful neglect, poverty will come upon them as suddenly, as strongly, and as unwelcome as an armed man. In this case, the lazy man thinks himself innocent because he did not deliberately, actively sow the thorns or break the wall, but his neglect of duty did them – and he is without excuse.

Richard Clifford: Sluggards lose not only their health and household, which v. 27 declares depends on the field, but also their reputation insofar as their impoverishment leads to beggary and dishonor.

Josh Moody: Proverbs has a lot to say about laziness, and these verses are some of the more evocative. A little sleep, a little slumber—poverty. It is the reality of our fallen world that, left to their own, things tend to fall apart. We must constantly be putting energy in to bring things together. That does not mean there is no time for rest (the Sabbath is also a biblical principle). But laziness will only in the end lead to even more work, as well as pain and difficulty. Save yourself the trouble now and take the time to take care of your responsibilities.

Paul Koptak: Juxtaposing this inductive lesson on vineyard keeping with teaching on righteous speaking suggests that diligence in both demonstrates wisdom and is essential for successful living. Negligence in either area exacts a high price. So Jesus calls wise those stewards who look after the house and its servants, and he calls wicked those who forget the master, beat the servants, and indulge in overeating and drinking (Matt. 24:45–50). . .

The indirect teaching of the field metaphor brings home the point of 24:13–22 as well as the entire teaching of the “sayings of the wise” (22:17 – 24:34). Wisdom comes first, and all else follows: “Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom” (4:7). In the individual proverbs, we saw that the sluggard is like stinging vinegar and smoke to the one who hires him as a messenger (10:26). Here a sluggard is one who has not learned to take care of himself, to serve an employer, or to be a responsible member of a community. To be lazy about the matters of wisdom is to make a mess of everything else. Just as a fool heads for bed without having prepared the field and goes against the basic principles of life and survival, so fools ignore the values of wisdom and truth in word and deed and find themselves in an overgrown tangle of weeds.