Search Bible Outlines and commentaries


A.  Author

These also are proverbs of Solomon

Van Leeuwen: Analysis of chapters 25-27 identifies the following components:

  1. 25:2–27 – a ‘proverb poem’ addressed to courtiers, about social rank and social conflict;
  2. 26:1–12 – a ‘proverb poem’ dealing with the fool, and life situations that call for a wisdom approach;
  3. 26:13–16 – a ‘proverb poem’ about the sluggard;
  4. 26:17–28 – a poem developing themes taken from chapter 25;
  5. 27:1–22 – a collection of miscellaneous proverbs, set out in couplets (vv. 1–2, 3–4, etc.), although Waltke sees here two parallel sets of instructions on friends and friendship;
  6. 27:23–27 – an admonitory poem, which can be read as advice to a farmer, but on a deeper level is addressed to the king as ‘shepherd’ of his people.

Charles Bridges: These are more proverbs of Solomon, copied by the men of Hezekiah king of Judah. . .  The selection was probably made from the 3,000 proverbs that Solomon spoke (1 Kings 4:32).  The New Testament fully authenticates this section of the book as a part of the inspired canon (compare verses 6-7 with Luke 14:7-10; verses 21-22 with Romans 12:20; 26:11 with 2 Peter 2:22; 27:1 with James 4:14).  We are not reading, therefore, the maxims of the wisest of men; the voice form heaven proclaims that these are the true sayings of God.

B.  Agents (Transcribers)

which the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah, transcribed.

Paul Koptak: The mention of Hezekiah’s men points to a tradition of collecting and arranging the sayings to be passed on to another generation.

Lindsay Wilson: Solomon ruled from about 961 to 922 bc, while Hezekiah was king from around 715 to 687 bc.

Tremper Longman: Hezekiah was king of Judah from 715 to 687 BC. Though he had lapses in good judgment, he was essentially a king known for his devotion to God (2 Kings 18–20; 2 Chron. 29–32; Isa. 36–39). It is likely that along with other acts of reform and renewal of worship following the destruction of the northern kingdom in 722, he also initiated more care in the transmission of sacred literature. . .

The biggest mystery has to do with what [“the men of Hezekiah”] were doing with the text. . .  Perhaps we should surmise that it was recognized that these Solomonic proverbs were also authoritative and needed to be added to the growing collection that up to this point was being transmitted separately

George Mylne: Those servants of Hezekiah who copied out the following part of Solomon’s proverbs, and joined them to the rest, are here mentioned to their honor. They were the publishers, and not the composers of the following chapters but they performed a piece of service to the church for which their names shall live.


A.  (:2) Glory of God vs. Glory of Kings

  1. Glory of God = Concealment

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,

Allen Ross: Kings must make things understandable to people, but God’s providence is beyond knowing. This first saying expresses a contrast between God and kings. On the one hand, it is the glorious nature of God to “conceal” things. God’s government of the universe is beyond human understanding—humans cannot fathom the divine intentions and operations. McKane, 579, rightly observes that this is appropriate to God: “When it is supposed that everything is known about God, it is no longer possible to worship him.” He explains further that religion becomes ordinary and flat if there is no boundary to our understanding of him.

On the other hand, it is the glory of kings to “uncover” or “search out” things. Plaut, 257, says that human government cannot claim divine secrecy. Kings have to investigate everything; then they must make things open and intelligible to their subjects, especially judicial matters (Greenstone, 263). The juxtaposition of these two lines basically forms a contrast; but kings who rule as God’s representatives must also try to represent his will in human affairs; they must inquire after God to reveal his will.

Charles Bridges: Are not the clouds of his concealment of the effulgence of his glory as the most simple, yet the most incomprehensible Being, whom the mightiest intellect can never totally understand?  “As there is,” says Bishop Hall, “a foolish wisdom, so there is a wise ignorance.  I would fain know all that I need, and all that I may.  I leave God’s secrets to himself. It is happy for me that God makes me of his court, though not of his council.  O Lord, let me be blessed with the knowledge of what you have revealed.  Let me content myself to adore your divine wisdom in what you have not revealed.”

George Mylne: How arrogant are those men who must know the reasons of all God’s works. Or, if that exceeds their capacity, to call them into question, or find fault with them as if they knew better what God ought to do than God Himself! There are unsearchable mysteries in the excellencies and ways of God. His way is in the sea, and His path in the mighty waters, and His footsteps are not known and it is His glory that they are not known. He would not be God if we could understand Him to perfection. Nor would His sovereignty absolute if He were obliged to do nothing but what His creatures would approve.

  1. Glory of Kings = Discovery

But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.

Paul Koptak: Kings find glory in searching out matters that God has concealed, not in conquests or in great accumulations of wealth.5 Kings were recipients of divine wisdom in the ancient Near East, and so Solomon asked for such wisdom (1 Kings 3:16–28); thus, nothing was hidden from him (1 Kings 10:3).

Richard Clifford: God’s world is full of conundrums and puzzles beyond the capacity of ordinary people, but the king is there to unravel them and lead people to serve the gods. In this saying, the close affinity between God’s wisdom and the king’s wisdom is expressed by the repetition of the first and last word of each colon – “glory” and “matter,” “God” and “king” (the latter pair rhyme in Hebrew, ‘ĕlôhîm and mĕlākîm). “Glory” here means “action worthy of glory.” The Contemporary English Version, though free, catches the nuance: “God is praised for being mysterious; / rulers are praised for explaining mysteries.” Cf. 16:10.

Lindsay Wilson: It is the God-given task for those in authority to explore and discern God’s glory hidden in the created world (v. 2). The same Hebrew word is used for what God conceals and what kings are to search for. Such matters are hidden not to remain undiscovered, but rather to give rulers a quest in life. However, the inner thoughts (lit. heart) of kings are so complex to fathom that they are pictured as difficult to search. It is like finding an object in a location as high as the sky and as low as the earth’s depths (v. 3; ’ereṣ, earth, may here mean ‘underworld’). Putting these two verses together suggests that while kings’ intentions are seldom clear (and this may be a riddle), their key task is to explore God’s glory.

David Guzik: It is the glory of great men (kings) to search out what God has concealed. This speaks to our pursuit of God’s mysteries in the spiritual world, but perhaps even more so to God’s mysteries in the material world. When men and women seek out scientific knowledge, trying to understand the mystery and brilliance of what God has concealed in His creation, they express an aspect of the glory of humanity, even the glory of kings. Therefore, we say to the scientist, search on, and do so with all your strength.

In all their searching, the scientist should still keep this humble remembrance: It is the glory of God to conceal a matter. “What I see amazes me, but God has concealed even greater treasures of knowledge and wisdom in His creation (Romans 1:19-20). I must not arrogantly think that I can figure it all out.” As G. Campbell Morgan wrote, “That is the principle of all the triumphs of scientific investigations; and it is the deepest secret of all advance in spiritual strength.”

B.  (:3) Inscrutability of Kings

As the heavens for height and the earth for depth,

So the heart of kings is unsearchable.

Paul Koptak: Just as no one can fathom all there is to know of creation or the greatness of Yahweh, who brought it into being (Job 5:9; Ps. 145:3; Isa. 40:28), so the heart of the king is never fully known, perhaps even to himself (Jer. 7:10).

Tremper Longman: In both cases, God and king are honored and held in high respect, though clearly the hierarchy is God first, next the king, then the rest of humanity. The second proverb teaches about the inscrutability of the king’s heart, presumably his thinking, motives, and emotions—his whole inner life. This is compared with other grand matters like the heavens and earth.

The proverb is addressed primarily to the sages who would work with the king, perhaps instilling within them proper respect. It may also warn them about trying to psychoanalyze (using a modern term) the monarch.

Allen Ross: Using formal—almost emblematic—parallelism, the sage records a simple political fact. While a king ought to make judicial matters clear to the people (v.2), many things are not made known, perhaps because of his superior wisdom, his caprice, or the necessity of maintaining confidentiality. But the comparison with the heavens as high and the earth as deep capture the nature of the king—he must be resourceful, inscrutable, always one step ahead, to keep a firm grip on power and to enhance his perception by the people.

George Mylne: But the heart of kings is often unsearchable another sense. Their designs cannot be known by their subjects, or by foreign princes because they industriously conceal them from the knowledge of all but their privy counselors; and this is often necessary, because a discovery of their counsels would obstruct the execution of them. Besides, the affairs of government are so various and complicated, they have so many designs to carry on, so many harms to obviate, so many opposite tempers of men to consider, and so many unknown difficulties to encounter that people in a lower station cannot possibly understand the reasons of a great part of their conduct, or the ends which they have in view. It is therefore presumptuous in subjects to pry too narrowly into their behavior, or to be rash with their censures on the public management. Those who take a liberty to despise authorities, and speak evil of dignities, should be sure that they do not speak evil of those things which they do not understand. If the heart of kings, who are infinitely inferior to God’s, is so unsearchable then how foolish is it to think that we can search out God unto perfection!

C.  (:4-5) Kingdom Stability Secured by the Purging of the Wicked

  1. (:4)  Illustration of Refining Silver

Take away the dross from the silver,

And there comes out a vessel for the smith;

Paul Koptak: These two proverbs are linked by the catchword “remove” or drive out, as well as by parallel form and repetition of Hebrew sounds. Although each saying can stand alone, the first states the general principle while the second names the specific situation of rebellion and judgment treated in the previous chapter (24:21–26; cf. 16:12; 20:28; 29:14). The puzzle of “material” that comes out of (or “from,” NIV text note) the smith’s fire may best be understood as a technical term that encompasses both the refining and the casting of the metal, used for the calf that came out of the fire (Ex. 32:24) and the weapon “forged” (Isa. 54:16–17).  No one prefers a corrupt government any more than anyone wants impure silver; it is in this sense that the throne is “established through righteousness.” The king searches out matters (Prov. 25:2) so that he can remove wickedness from his presence.

Caleb Nelson: The king searches things out. And what he especially searches out is the guilt or innocence of those around him. You can state positively what these verses say, which is that the king is comparable to a silver refiner whose job is to get the impurities out and therefore that he needs to have good people in his cabinet. But the text states it negatively. It says that the king needs to fire the wicked. Get them out! David said in Psalm 101 that he would not tolerate a wicked man in his court, and Solomon now says the same thing. For a king to have his throne established in righteousness requires that he purge impurities out of his administration. Good policies can’t be enforced by bad men.

  1. (:5)  Application to Purging the Wicked

Take away the wicked from before the king,

And his throne will be established in righteousness.

Richard Clifford: If you remove scum you get pure silver; if you remove scoundrels from the king’s court you get a stable dynasty in that a just dynasty assures divine protection. In Psalm 101, especially v. 7, the king expresses similar sentiments: “One who deals deceitfully will not live in my house, one who speaks lies shall not remain before my eyes.” “The king’s circle” has the meaning it has in 1 Kings 12:8. Cf. 16:12.

Lindsay Wilson: While the king is also mentioned in verse 5, the focus is now on the wicked, and how their presence impedes the work of the king. They are depicted as dross that needs to be removed from the silver in order to make it pure (v. 4). The parallel is clear: take away the dross and the silver material can then be used; take away the wicked and the king can have a sustained rule that embodies righteousness (v. 5; 16:12b). A variety of wicked characters will be explored in verses 16–26, and these will all impede a king’s righteous rule, which is an equivalent expression to searching out God’s glory.

Allen Ross: The point is clear: Remove the wicked, and the throne will be established in righteousness. Greenstone, 264, says, “The king may have perfect ideals and his conduct may be irreproachable, but he may be misled by unscrupulous courtiers.” When these are purged, then the government will be left with righteous counselors and therefore “established through righteousness.”

D.  (:6-7) Humility before the King

  1. (:6)  Renounce Self-Promotion and Vain Ambition

Do not claim honor in the presence of the king,

And do not stand in the place of great men;

Paul Koptak: A prohibition and a “better than” saying are paired by not only theme but also by the terms for up and down, small and great. The saying in verse 6 is also linked with verse 5 by the phrase “king’s presence” (cf. 25:1–3; 22:29). If the king will not tolerate the wicked, neither will he tolerate sycophants and hangers-on who hope to gain something by hobnobbing with people of status and means. The prohibition is clear: Do not put yourself in the company of the great; let the king bestow that honor. If you claim it for yourself, you will be put in your place, (lit.) “a lower place before a noble” (cf. 16:19; 29:23); it is better to choose humility than to be humiliated.  There are three “do not” prohibitions in 25:6, 8, and 9, with three corresponding instances of shame in the eyes of others for being too proud, litigious, or talkative. It is better to show restraint in all three cases, to hold back and take your time.

Lindsay Wilson: The young men in the court are admonished neither to claim honour for themselves (‘exalt yourself’, niv; put yourself forward, esv/nrsv), nor to do this physically by standing among those (presumably in the court) who are important. As Jesus was later to say (Luke 14:7–11), it is better to be invited up higher than to be told to get to the end of the queue where you belong.

  1. (:7)  Embrace Humility and Faith

For it is better that it be said to you, “Come up here,”

Than that you should be put lower in the presence of the prince,

Whom your eyes have seen.

Charles Bridges: Our Lord applies this proverb more generally (Luke 14:8-11).  Who does not need this caution against ambition?  Loving to be preeminent is the bane of godliness in the church.  Let each of us set about the work of throwing down our high tower of conceit.  We must cultivate a deep sense of our own unworthiness.  Think of Christ who made himself the most humble of men.

Matthew Henry: Not that we must therefore pretend modesty and humility, and make a stratagem of it, for the courting of honour, but therefore we must really be modest and humble, because God will put honour on such and so will men too. It is better, more for a man’s satisfaction and reputation, to be advanced above his pretensions and expectations, than to be thrust down below them, in the presence of the prince, whom it was a great piece of honour to be admitted to the sight of and a great piece of presumption to look upon without leave.


A.  (:8) Avoid Hasty Litigation

Do not go out hastily to argue your case;

Otherwise, what will you do in the end,

When your neighbor puts you to shame?

Richard Clifford: Formally, the verse is an admonition with a motive. Avoid rash recourse to law courts, for your adversary could win and you could be shamed. The phrase “What your eyes have witnessed” has a legal sense as in Deut. 21:7. To go immediately to law only on the basis of what has been immediately observed is unwise. One needs to investigate the circumstances to find out if a crime has been committed and whether the courts are an appropriate remedy. The key question, “What will you do at its end …?” occurs in Jer. 5:31 and with variants in Isa. 10:3 and Hos. 9:5.

Lindsay Wilson: The issue here seems to be hasty litigation (as in 20:3) rather than a deceitful process (as in 24:28). This haste is envisaged in verse 8, when a neighbour’s response to a legal claim ends up reversing the outcome. The self-righteous litigant is shamed or dishonoured as the whole picture emerges. A better way forward would be to speak personally to the neighbour to see if the matter can be resolved or explained, before hastily dragging the information out into the public arena. This teaching is also echoed at the beginning of the process set out by Jesus (Matt. 18:15–20).

Tremper Longman: Eyes can be deceptive, so one must reflect on a situation before making an accusation. It could also be that one saw truly but can’t prove it, and so one’s accusation looks like a trumped-up charge. If the charge is false or unproved, then the neighbor can cast aspersions on one who makes charges.

Allen Ross: This is a warning to be cautious in divulging information. McKane, 581, urges that the verse speaks more of broken confidence than of hasty legal action and that it also applies to an administration that sees and hears things it must not divulge.

Charles Bridges: Dissension under any circumstances is a serious evil.  The considerate Christian will concede his rights rather than insist on them to the detriment of his own soul and to the injury of the church (1 Corinthians 6:1-7).  Many unholy arguments would be restrained by the practice of these rules of wisdom and love.  Obviously the person most at fault should give way.  But if, as is usually the case, he is too unreasonable to do so, let us by a generous and self-forgetting kindness deny ourselves the pleasure of a triumph instead of standing on punctilious forms or waiting for an acknowledgment from the offender.  And if we find it easier to talk about our neighbor’s faults to others than wisely and prayerfully to tell him about them alone, we must ask for self-discipline and for the mind of Christ (Colossians 3:15).

B.  (:9-10) Address Grievances Directly with Your Neighbor

  1. (:9)  Keep Private Disputes Private

Argue your case with your neighbor,

And do not reveal the secret of another,

Richard Clifford: If you must pursue the quarrel, keep it between the two of you; don’t involve others. Others will become enemies from the breach of trust.

Tremper Longman: Here the advice is to criticize one’s neighbor directly and make the charge without going public. The secret is the criticism that one has of a neighbor. The fear is that the criticism may be overheard by a third party, perhaps sympathetic to the neighbor, and then the accuser will have the reputation of being a gossip, something roundly condemned by the book of Proverbs (11:13; 17:4; 18:8).

George Mylne: If we are forced into debate, the more privately it is managed the better; and therefore, if we think ourselves ill used, our best course is to reason the matter with the offender in the spirit of meekness, to convince him of the wrong he has done to us; and to show him a forgiving spirit, which will be the most effectual means of bringing him to repentance, and to put an end to the difference if possible, without exposing ourselves or our neighbors to the censure of the world, which will conclude that there are faults on both sides.

  1. (:10)  Escalating Disputes Increases Vulnerability

Lest he who hears it reproach you,

And the evil report about you not pass away.

Lindsay Wilson: The trigger for this undesirable loss of community respect and status is revealing another person’s secret (v. 9b; in Ps. 25:14 it refers to being in the inner circle where you hear the most private of conversations). Few things are as destructive of community as gossip and betrayal of trust (11:13; 20:19).


A.  (:11) Beautiful Speech with Maximum Impact

Like apples of gold in settings of silver

Is a word spoken in right circumstances.

Paul Koptak: Just as a jewelry maker sets a finely wrought apple of gold into its silver setting, wise people know how to bring the right word to a situation. Each displays a beauty that is the mark of a skilled artist. What is the “word aptly spoken”?  It can be a word of reproof or correction, yet it must find a receptive listener (15:23).  The sender must be careful not only to craft persuasive words but also to exercise discernment in determining when it is best to speak and when to keep silent.

Tremper Longman: The wisdom formula is to speak the right word to the right person at the right time (15:23).

Allen Ross: The point is obviously the immense value and memorable beauty of words used skillfully (Whybray, 148).

B.  (:12) Effective Speech to a Receptive Audience

Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold

Is a wise reprover to a listening ear.

Allen Ross: A wise rebuke that is properly received is of lasting value. Another emblematic parallelism compares the rebuke to ornamental jewelry—it is pleasing and complimentary. The verse presents the ideal combination of a wise teacher and a willing student. (“Listening ear” means that the disciple is obedient in response to the rebuke.)

Matthew Henry: If it be well given, by a wise reprover, and well taken, by an obedient ear, it is an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold, very graceful and well becoming both the reprover and the reproved; both will have their praise, the reprover for giving it so prudently and the reproved for taking it so patiently and making a good use of it. Others will commend them both, and they will have satisfaction in each other; he who gave the reproof is pleased that it had the desired effect, and he to whom it was given has reason to be thankful for it as a kindness. That is well given, we say, that is well taken; yet it does not always prove that that is well taken which is well given. It were to be wished that a wise reprover should always meet with an obedient ear, but often it is not so.

C.  (:13) Faithful Speech that Refreshes the Sender

Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest

Is a faithful messenger to those who send him,

For he refreshes the soul of his masters.

Richard Clifford: A simile breaks the series of paired sayings in the chapter. It is not clear whether snow from the mountains was actually brought to refresh ordinary harvesters in the heat or only to the wealthy. There may be a reference to ice and snow brought from the mountains in jute packing.

Lindsay Wilson: This is compared to the cold of snow at harvest time – not a destructive cold, but one that is a refreshing change from summer heat. Snow at harvest time would be unlikely, but it may refer to runners bringing down compacted snow or ice to the valley to cool down their masters (Van Leeuwen 1997: 219).

Allen Ross: To “refresh the spirit” is wenepeš . . . yāšîb, the idea being that someone who sends the messenger entrusts his life (i.e., his soul) to him; and a mission faithfully accomplished “restores” it to him. Faithfulness is always refreshing.

Peter Wallace: Remember that in those days, there is no email – there are no text messages! If you want to send a message, then you will need to send a person to deliver the message. And while it was possible to send a written note – very few people knew how to read or write – and so the most common way to send messages was to send a messenger. You tell the messenger – “here’s what I want you to say…” And then you trust the messenger to go say it!

How often, do you suppose, did the messenger mess up the message?! If your messenger secretly hates you, he could screw it up on purpose! But even if he likes you, there are so many ways that this could go wrong! A faithful messenger refreshes the soul of his masters!

  • Are you trustworthy?
  • Are you reliable?
  • Are you faithful in the discharge of your duties?
  • When you say that you will do something for someone, do you do it?

Josh Moody: Having someone you can trust to do what they say they are going to do, and to take what you wanted said and accurately deliver the message when you are not there, that is a good thing and a great thing. How much more should we be faithful with the message of the gospel!

D.  (:14) Empty Speech that Promises But Fails to Deliver

Like clouds and wind without rain

Is a man who boasts of his gifts falsely.

Richard Clifford: In the ancient Near East, to promise gifts was to proclaim oneself a patron and an important person. To promise gifts to clients and then not give them was to make one a rain cloud without the rain.

Lindsay Wilson: Faithful speech is life-giving; empty promises only increase frustration and result in shame for the ‘giver’.

Tremper Longman: Not to get rain is a disappointment, especially in an area like Palestine, where rainfall is not abundant and is desperately needed for agriculture. In other words, colon 1 is a way of saying that something is “all show and no results.”

This helps us understand the “false” or “deceptive” gift of the second colon. In what way is it deceptive? It likely refers to those who say they will give a gift, and indeed brag about it, but then never give it. They may preannounce a gift in order to get in the good graces of the supposed recipient and then never actually give the gift. If this interpretation is correct, then the proverb serves as a warning to watch out for these false claims and not give favors based on the promise of a gift.

Allen Ross: The promises of a boaster are empty. The illustration here is clouds and wind that lead one to expect rain but do not produce it; they gain attention but prove to be disappointing and hence deceitful. Similar is the windbag who brags of gifts to be bestowed, but the promise is deceitful (šāqer, “he does not give”)—there are none. The lesson, of course, is not to make false promises.

George Mylne: It is shameful to behave in this manner, raising expectations and then disappointing them, and perhaps reducing to great straits and perplexities the very men who were trusting to their friendship.

E.  (:15) Patient and Gentle Speech that Proves Persuasive

By forbearance a ruler may be persuaded,

And a soft tongue breaks the bone.

Lindsay Wilson: The two virtues of patience and persistence in speech are commended. Just as water can wear down rocks over many years, gentle and determined words of counsel can change rulers.

Tremper Longman: This proverb tells the reader that tough things are won over not by force or a show of force, but by patience and tenderness. This is the exact opposite of what might be expected. A military commander is presumably a tough individual, one who is accustomed to dealing with confrontation. The unexpected, “patience,” wins him over. In the second colon, one might expect the best results from a harsh word, but here it is the tender word.

Allen Ross: By soft speech a bone can be broken; that is, stiff opposition can be broken down. The verse recommends “conciliatory and persuasive advocacy which succeeds in the end over against the most determined and studied recalcitrance” (ibid.; see also 14:29; 15:1, 18).

Peter Wallace: If you are a gossip – he won’t trust you with information. If you are too hot-tempered to rebuke well – and too proud to listen to others – then you won’t be around very long. If you are unreliable and unfaithful in the discharge of your duties, you won’t get a hearing. But if you are wise and faithful in your words and deeds, then with patience a ruler may be persuaded.

Bones are rigid.  Bones do not bend. But even the most rigid, inflexible ruler may bend to a soft tongue – to gentle words – whereas harsh words will not accomplish much at all!