Search Bible Outlines and commentaries


A.  (:17) Benefits of Parental Discipline

Correct your son, and he will give you comfort;

He will also delight your soul.

Paul Koptak: this hopeful proverb stresses the positive aspect of “discipline”; if a son left to himself brings shame, the son who receives “discipline” (“instruction,” root ysr; cf. 29:19; 19:18; 22:6; 31:1) gives peace and delight.  Again, what is given is returned in kind.

Richard Clifford: To discipline a child is to offer guidance, reproving when necessary, but always in a context of love and of confidence in the child.  A good example of loving discipline is 23:15-16.  This saying is about the goal of the process – the formation of a loving and responsible adult.  The outlook is very pragmatic; it is in the self-interest of a parent to educate a child well, for wise offspring will care for their elderly parents.

Allen Ross: A disciplined child brings contentment to parents.

B.  (:18) Benefits of Revelatory Vision Coupled with Obedience

Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained,

But happy is he who keeps the law.

Richard Clifford: The basic contrast in the saying is between nation and individual.  A people may be demoralized from poor leadership, but an individual can still find happiness by heeding inspired wisdom.

Lindsay Wilson: Verse 18 extrapolates from family upbringing to the society as a whole. The community of God’s people is meant to be shaped by (prophetic) vision, and by ‘instruction’/law. Vision (ḥāzôn) is often associated with prophets (e.g. 1 Sam. 3:1), and can be used to describe an entire book of prophetic words (Isa. 1:1). Thus it can mean revelation (so niv) or, perhaps in a wisdom context, authoritative words designed to shape us. Van Leeuwen (1997: 244) suggests it might refer to political guidance, as in 11:14. The parallel term in verse 18b is tôrâ, which commonly means ‘law’, but in Proverbs can mean the ‘instruction’ given by the sages or parents (1:8). So verse 18 at least refers to being transformed by authoritative words and instruction, but may also allude to the prophetic word and the law. In any event, those who accept this shaping are described as blessed (= ‘happy in God’s sight’, Ps. 1:1), while those who reject this teaching have cast off restraint (lit. ‘let themselves loose, go out of control’).

Tremper Longman: The meaning of the colon seems to warn that those who don’t have a goal and/or a plan for the future have nothing to guide them onward, so they go every which way.  The “vision” restrains them because it suggests a strategy to achieve that goal.

Allen Ross: The TEV has “guidance”; the NIV has “revelation.” It should be stated, however, that the prophetic ministry usually came in response to periods of calamity to call the people back to God, so that ḥāzôn meaning revelatory vision should be retained. If there is no revelation from God, people can expect spiritual and political anarchy (Alden, 202). The meaning “cast off restraint” is assumed for yippāraʿ based on Exodus 32:25. In contrast to the first line, the second provides the positive wording: there is a blessing for those who keep the law.

C.  (:19) Difficulties of Training Servants

A slave will not be instructed by words alone;

For though he understands, there will be no response.

Tremper Longman: Here we see that “servants” were thought by the wise to be particularly difficult to train.  Words alone won’t do it.  It is not that they are not intelligent enough to understand intellectually what they are being told.  The second colon affirms that they do understand but that there is no response.  This likely indicates a lack of desire to carry out the command of the master.  It appears that they need something more to motivate them.

George Mylne: The proverb teaches us that masters ought to keep up their authority in their families. Without this everything must be in a state of confusion, and go to ruin. If they have servant that will not yield obedience, they must either be compelled to do it, or dismissed from the house.

But it teaches us likewise, that methods of severity are not to be used by heads of families, when milder means are sufficient to answer the end. It is only when servants, though they understand the wishes of their masters, will not answer by respectful words and due obedience, that masters are warranted to use harsh methods of dealing with them.


A.  (:20) The Hasty Speaker

Do you see a man who is hasty in his words?

There is more hope for a fool than for him.

Paul Koptak: Certainly speaking without thinking is in view (10:19; 19:2), but in this context, the repetition of ḥzh (see, “revelation,” 29:18) suggests that hasty speech ignores the constraints of the “law” (torah) as well as the practices of discernment that see and learn (22:29; 24:32).

Richard Clifford: One becomes a moral agent in Proverbs by taking in data through the eyes and ears, memorizing and reflecting on it in the heart, and then speaking and acting “from the heart” (= mind).  Haste impairs this sequence of perception, reflection, and response.

Charles Bridges: We have just been warned against sullen silence.  This next warning is directed against hasty words.  When a person flows on in his words, evidently without time for consideration, when he gives his opinion as if there were no time to take counsel or to take notice of the judgment of others, this is the fool speaking.  It is very difficult to deal effectively with him.  Until the stronghold of his own conceit is shaken, argument and instruction are lost on him.

B.  (:21) The Slave Pamperer

He who pampers his slave from childhood

Will in the end find him to be a son.

Paul Koptak: The proverb implies that discipline provided early on will lead to a happier ending.

Tremper Longman: What is clear is that pampering a servant (thus, not heeding the warning of 29:19) is a mistake and will lead to unfortunate consequences.

C.  (:22) The Angry Man

An angry man stirs up strife,

And a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression.

Paul Koptak: As wrath goes uncontrolled, so does its damage. Perhaps some wordplay was intended by following “grief” (manon, 29:21) with “dissension” (madon).

Lindsay Wilson: Verse 22 might also in part refer to the wrong use of words (those spoken in anger), but most likely refers to both actions and words displayed by people who are controlled by their anger or hot temper (lit. “a person of anger” and “a lord/master of wrath”).  When people have little self-control, their angry outbursts and responses promote conflict and many transgressions (15:18; 22:24-25; cf. 19:11).  This focus on the whole person (not just one’s words) is seen in the reference to underlying attitudes and issues of character in verse 23.

Allen Ross: Not only does such a one stir up “dissention” (mādôn), but in so doing he also causes sin in himself and in others (see also 14:17, 29; 15:18; 16:32; 22:24).

George Mylne: Railing, and reviling, and backbiting, and evil speaking, and lies, and wars, and duels, and murders are only a few of the transgressions to which men have been a thousand times tempted by their unbridled anger. He who indulges anger, gives place to the devil. He puts that malignant spirit in possession of the throne of his heart, and commits to him the direction of his heart, and tongue, and hands. The wrath of man never works the righteousness of God; it utterly disqualifies him for praying, or doing any other holy action but it works the will of the devil with both hands earnestly.

D.  (:23) The Arrogant Man

A man’s pride will bring him low,

But a humble spirit will obtain honor.

Paul Koptak: The contrast between high and low is enhanced by the repetition of the root špl (“low”) at the center of the proverb. The word “pride” is used elsewhere for swelling waves (Ps. 46:4) that will eventually fall.  “Honor” (kabod; cf. Prov. 3:35; 15:33; 18:12; 26:1, 8) must come from another or someone else (25:27; 27:1–2); yet a “lowly spirit” does hold it fast (cf. 4:4; 5:22). Better to be called up higher than put lower (cf. 25:6–7).

Tremper Longman: Folly is natural; wisdom must be inculcated.  To do so, people need to be open to criticism of their words and behavior.  They hear and change.  On the other hand, because of pride fools will resist criticism, even mocking those who try to help them in this way.  The results are clear.  The proud are doomed to repeat their mistakes and end up falling, while the humble will gain glory.  The paradox of the teaching is that a “high” spirit will come crashing down, while a “low” spirit will be lifted up.

E.  (:24) The Accomplice to Thieves

He who is a partner with a thief hates his own life;

He hears the oath but tells nothing.

Paul Koptak: The second line can read “he hears an imprecation and does not tell,” most likely an allusion to Leviticus 5:1: “If a person sins because he does not speak up when he hears a public charge to testify regarding something he has seen or learned about, he will be held responsible.” To hold back testimony when it is called for is a crime of complicity, one that injures the community and, because it angers Yahweh, oneself.

George Mylne: There are some who would be afraid to steal and yet they venture to partake with thieves in their crime, by receiving a part of what is stolen as the price of concealment, or by buying commodities which they have reason to suspect for stolen goods, because they can have them at a low price. The Scripture assures us, that men may bring such guilt upon themselves by partaking of other men’s sins; and that he who is a partner with a thief, is a hater of his own life and soul, as well as the principal thief. The devil is not content with drawing men to single acts of sin but he makes one evil thing the preface to another.

The devil makes one transgression a snare for leading the sinner into another; and he who joins with a thief, is prepared for lying and perjury. In court he is put under oath and dare not testify and thus he adds to the guilt of stealing the greater guilt of falsehood and concealment, when he is upon his oath. Those who are under examination upon oath, should consider this text. If they swear that they will tell everything they know about the affair before the judge, or if they are required, by proper authority, to bear witness about a crime which ought to be punished they are enemies to justice, and haters of their own souls, if they do not give a faithful and honest declaration of the truth. Men may partake of other men’s sins, not only by countenancing them but by refusing to concur in proper endeavors to have them punished, for a warning to others.


Lindsay Wilson: These two verses (:25-26) differ from the previous ones in that they both explicitly refer to the Lord, commending trust in the Lord and seeing him as the source of justice.  Both also view looking for human approval as an alternative to looking to the Lord.

A.  (:25) Fear God Not Man

The fear of man brings a snare,

But he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.

Richard Clifford: A time will come when fear of others will override fear of Yahweh and the counsels of wisdom, leading one to sins that will come back on one’s head.  Trust in Yahweh, on the other hand, keeps one safe, for there is nothing more powerful than God.  The verse has a double antithesis: anxious fear of human beings and trust in God; trap and protection.

B.  (:26) Seek Justice from God Not the Ruler

Many seek the ruler’s favor,

But justice for man comes from the LORD.

Richard Clifford: The idiom “to seek the face of” means to seek the favor of someone more powerful than oneself.  God is the object of the verb “to seek” except in this verse and 1 Kings 10:24 (= 2 Chron. 9:23).  Though people flock to human rulers, ultimate decisions are not in their hands but in God’s.  Human rulers do not have it in their power to rectify every situation.  Only God can establish justice definitively.

Lindsay Wilson: The contrast in verse 26 is between those who try to gain a favourable judgment from a human authority (ESV, seek the face of a ruler) and those who recognize that ultimately justice for human beings comes from the Lord.


An unjust man is abominable to the righteous,

And he who is upright in the way is abominable to the wicked.

Paul Koptak: the two ways of life are totally incompatible.

Richard Clifford: Both cola of the final verse of the chapter begin with the final letter of the Hebrew alphabet, taw, matching v. 1, which began with the ‘alep, the first letter of the alphabet. . .   The saying is an example of ethical dualism. . .”

Allen Ross: The righteous and the wicked detest the lifestyles of each other. The righteous detest the dishonest, and the wicked detest those who try to live uprightly.