Proverbs Chapter 10  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: Proverbs 10
Pro 10:1

“grief.” The Hebrew word is tugah (#08424 תּוּגָה) and means grief, heaviness, sorrow. The “interpretation” of the verse involves only the mother, but the application of the verse is much broader, because fools bring grief and sorrow to all those who take an interest in, and are involved in, their lives.

Pro 10:2(top)
Pro 10:3

“cause the righteous soul to go hungry.” The verb raeb (#07456 רָעֵב) means “to be hungry” in the qal aspect, but this verb is in the hiphil aspect, the causative aspect, and that is important here. There are righteous people who go hungry, but God does not cause it. On a broader note, the Proverb can also be taken to mean that the righteous soul will not be allowed to hunger, but that would be a general statement with plenty of exceptions.

Pro 10:4

“idle.” The Hebrew word is remiyah (#07423 רְמִיָּה), and has two fundamental meanings: 1) slackness; sluggish, lax, negligent, and careless behavior, and 2) deceitfulness, treachery. It occurs 16 times in the OT, of which 5 are in Psalms and 4 are in Proverbs (Prov. 10:4; 12:24, 27; 19:15), and it has the definition of slackness; sluggish, lax, negligent, and careless behavior all four times in Proverbs. The difficulty of the reading of the Hebrew text has caused most versions to word this verse in a way that is more easily understood in English, but it is true that many poor people could work more diligently if they decided to, and cut expenses, increase income, or both. Many poor people do indeed “make” their palm idle.

Pro 10:5

“summer…harvest.” In many countries these are two different seasons, summer being the growing season and autumn being the harvest season. However, in Israel, much of the harvest, especially of grains and grapes, occurs in the summer. Some even occurs in the Spring.

“a shameful son.” Literally, “a son being put to shame.”

Pro 10:6

“a righteous person…the wicked.” The word “righteous” is in the singular, the word “wicked” is plural. We see many times in Proverbs where the godly person is singular and the ungodly person is plural. Many times godly people walk alone, while it seems like ungodly people are everywhere. Also, verses such as this may have been some of the inspiration for Jesus saying that the road to destruction was broad and many would travel on it, while that road to life was narrow and few would find it (Matt. 7:13-14).

Pro 10:7(top)
Pro 10:8

“wise heart.” The Hebrew is literally, “the wise of heart,” but this is most likely an attributed genitive, meaning, “the wise heart,” and also the word “heart” is put by the figure of speech synecdoche for the person, especially the center of their thinking. Thus, the “wise heart” is parallel to the “foolish” person.

“lips.” The Hebrew word is saphah (#08193 שָׂפָה) and means “lip,” or, by common metonymy, “language.” Although many versions have “babbling,” that makes it seem that the speech is utter nonsense, and that is not necessarily the case, although that happens too. The unreasonable fool pour out his opinions, which are right in his eyes (Prov. 12:15) but devoid of true wisdom.

“come to ruin.” The Hebrew is labat (#03832 לָבַט) and means to be thrown down, thrown out, thrown away, ruined. This is a wonderful example of depth of meaning being displayed in the Hebrew word. When a person or city is thrown down, it is “ruined.”However, on a more literal note, the unreasonable fool, in this life, is thrown down, and then, at the Judgment, he is “thrown out” like garbage, into Gehenna.

Pro 10:9(top)
Pro 10:10

“causes.” The literal Hebrew is “gives,” but we would say “causes.”

“foolish with his lips.” See commentary on Prov. 10:8.

Pro 10:11

“but the mouth of the wicked.” This second stanza is the same as the second stanza in Prov. 10:6.

Pro 10:12

“love covers.” This stanza is quoted in 1 Peter 4:8.

Pro 10:13

will strike the back.” The Hebrew text does not have the verb, so it has to be supplied from the culture. Thus, some versions have “is for,” or “is in store,” or a similar phrase. People who behaved foolishly were sometimes beaten with a rod, or hit, struck, poked or tapped with it, depending on the person and the situation.

It was a common custom for men to carry a walking stick, a “rod,” that they would use for support on the rough ground and for self-defense (even against snakes and scorpions), and so it was always handy and easy to use, and they would use it to correct people if the situation warranted. Misbehaving or disobedient slaves (Exod. 21:20-21) and children (Prov. 13:24; 22:15; 23:13-14; 29:15) were commonly corrected with the rod (cp “fools,” Prov. 26:3). Because the physical rod was commonly used for correction, the word “rod” became used figuratively for correction in general even though an actual “rod” was not used (2 Sam. 7:14; Job 21:9). That the “rod” was used figuratively for correction that came in other ways besides the actual rod means that we have to pay attention to verses such as Proverbs 22:15 where the word “rod” can have both the meaning of a physical rod and correction in some other way as well.

The correction of children, while done from love and concern, was generally much harsher in biblical times than it is today, and that stemmed from the fact that medical care was primitive at best. Injuries that would be considered minor today, such as a cut or a broken bone, could mean the life of the child.

Our society has in large part moved away from the idea of stern correction, but there is no evidence that we are better off for it. Quite the contrary. If the way students behave in school is any indicator at all, the absence of stern correction is deleterious to people. We should note that God, who created people and knows us better than we know ourselves, advises stern correction to put an end to foolishness.

Pro 10:14(top)
Pro 10:15

“poor.” The noun is plural. The plural noun does not mean there will always be lots of poor, but it supports that understanding of the verse. Verses like Proverbs 10:15 support the validity of Jesus saying, “you will always have the poor with you” (Mark 14:7; cp. John 12:8).

Pro 10:16

“The wage of the righteous person is life.” In this context, the word “life” means living to the fullest today (not necessarily having lots of material things, but having joy, peace, love, etc.), and also has an eschatological meaning and refers to “everlasting life.”

This verse is the antithesis of Romans 6:23, which says, “The wages of sin is death.” Here, the wage earned by the righteous person is life—a meaningful life here and everlasting life in the hereafter. The verb “is” is supplied, but it was common to leave out the “to be” verb, which would be supplied by the reader (in fact, Hebrew does not have a present tense “to be” verb), and Greek often does the same thing. The “wage…is life” would be the most common way to understand the Hebrew text.

The fullness of Romans 6:23 is that the wages of sin is death, but the “free gift of God is life in the Age to Come in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If Romans says everlasting life is a free gift, why is it called a “wage” here in Proverbs? This is an important point and needs to be understood. Everlasting life is never called a “gift” in the Old Testament; that is a New Testament concept. There has always been the sense that everlasting life is a gift of some sort because there is no way a human could purchase it. However, the Old Testament never called it a gift because people had to maintain their trust in God and their faithfulness to Him throughout their lives in order to receive it (Hab. 2:4). That is why there are so many Old Testament Scriptures that say that “righteous” people attain life. In the covenant world of the Old Testament, a “righteous” person was someone who maintained their covenant agreement with God and trusted Him. An unrighteous person broke their covenant with God and disobeyed Him.

Salvation has always been by trusting God, by “faith.” Faith does not earn salvation; it is a necessary condition for salvation. Today, in the Administration of Grace, we believe “unto” salvation (Rom. 10:10). Our trust does not save us, but it opens the door for God to save us. However, people who lived before Jesus paid for the sins of mankind (and before God made the New Birth available on the Day of Pentecost—Acts 2) had to maintain their trust in God throughout their lives, so it was appropriate that God referred to everlasting life as the “wage of righteousness,” the “wage earned by righteousness.”

[For more on the Administration of Grace, see commentary on Eph. 3:2. For more on the New Birth and the permanence of salvation, see Appendix 1, “The Permanence of Christian Salvation.”]

“Sin.” In this verse, sin is both literal in this life and a metonymy of the effect for that which sin results in: punishment.

[See word study on “metonymy.”]

Pro 10:17

“goes astray.” The Hebrew simply reads, “leads astray,” and this is one of the riddles of the wise (Prov. 1:6). The obvious idea of “leads” is “leads others,” but the first stanza of the proverb would seem to suggest “leads himself.” The commentators and the English versions are divided. Actually, the verse has both meanings. We decided to leave the ambiguity of the Hebrew text in the verse.

If we want to be successful in life, we have to follow Wisdom’s advice. In this case, we should be aware of those people around us who ignore or reject reproof and correction. Why would they do that? Pride, or perhaps they were previously hurt, or perhaps they are more evil than we think. In any case, when we see people around us who ignore reproof we need to be very careful, because association with them will not turn out to our benefit, even if it is only because they set a very bad example.

Pro 10:18

“The one hiding his hatred has deceitful lips​.” Commentators differ as to whether this rendition, which is similar to the NASB, “He who conceals hatred has lying lips,” or a rendition similar to the KJV, is the meaning of the Hebrew. However, the REV translation follows the standard way Proverbs handles the stanzas as each having an independent meaning.

Pro 10:19(top)
Pro 10:20

worth little.” A cultural idiom or equivalent for “worth nothing.” In an honor-shame society, it is almost more of an insult to say someone is worth little than that they are worth nothing.

Pro 10:21

“sense.” The Hebrew word is leb (#03820 לֵב), which is often translated “heart,” but this is one of those cases where that translation would cause confusion. In modern English, the word “heart” usually refers to emotion or passion, but that is not its meaning here. The function of the brain was unknown in biblical times, so things that we generally assign to the brain, like thinking, attitudes, understanding, and good sense, were assigned to the heart. In this case, fools die because they lack “sense,” or good sense. In this case, the fools not only die on this earth, they experience everlasting death because they are so foolish they never get saved and gain everlasting life.

[For more on the Hebrew word leb and “heart,” see commentary on Prov. 15:21, “sense.”]

Pro 10:22(top)
Pro 10:23

“Acting indecently is like pleasure to a fool​.” This verse is a wonderful example of how the nature of Proverbs pulls us into thought, prayer, and meditation. There are so many nuances of meaning to the words involved that the translator has an impossible time bringing them all into English. This is the reason for the many different translations of this verse, which though similar in many ways, differ quite significantly in what they mean.

“Acting indecently.” The Hebrew word is zimmah (#02154 זִמָּה), and it can mean a plan or an intention, either good or bad; or lewd, crass, and shameful behavior, or villainy, which are often sexual in nature. The preponderant number of uses of this word in the OT are sexual in nature, and fools tend toward the lewd and shameful, so it makes sense in this context to use a translation that is more sexual in nature than just criminal in nature. Perhaps, “Lewd behavior” would have been very good.

“pleasure.” The Hebrew word is sechoq (#07814 שְׂחוֹק), and it means laughter, pleasure, mockery, or derision. Waltke writes, “The 15 occurrences of sechoq in poetry denote an outward audible expression of inner mirth and pleasure….”a The lewd and shameful behavior of the fools produces such pleasure that he laughs and squeals with delight. The fool finds fun and pleasure in doing wrong. It entertains him. In contrast, the man of understanding finds pleasure in making wise choices. Due to the range of meaning in the verse, a sampling of translations can be helpful if one is to more fully understand it.

ESV: Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool, but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding.

KJV: It is as sport to a fool to do mischief: but a man of understanding hath wisdom.

NASB: Doing wickedness is like sport to a fool; And so is wisdom to a man of understanding.

NIV: A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct, but a man of understanding delights in wisdom.

NJB: A fool takes pleasure in doing wrong, the intelligent in cultivating wisdom.

Waltke: To commit villainy is like [the pleasure of laughter] to a fool, but wisdom [is like the pleasure of laughter] to an understanding person.

Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 1-15, 474.
Pro 10:24

“wicked person’s horror will come upon him.” Proverbs 10:24 is one of the many “ideal” promises in the Word of God which would be fulfilled here on earth today if we lived in a godly world with godly people. We do not. The Devil is the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4; 1 John 5:19), and so neither the wicked nor the righteous always get what they deserve in this life. This promise will only be fully fulfilled in the future.

[For more on promises like this, see commentary on Prov. 19:5.]

Pro 10:25

“When the storm passes through.” This is the figure of speech hypocatastasis (comparison by implication) where the “storm” is the Day of Judgment.

[For more on the figure hypocatastasis, see commentary on Revelation 20:2.]

Pro 10:26

“lazy.” See commentary on Prov. 6:6; “lazy one.”

Pro 10:27

“will be cut short.” Although this Proverb can apply to life here and now, it really has an eschatological tone, because although wicked people may live a long life here on earth, they will not live long after Judgment Day when they are thrown into the Lake of Fire and are annihilated.

[For more on annihilation in the Lake of Fire, see Appendix 5: “Annihilation in the Lake of Fire.”]

Pro 10:28

“is joy.” The absent Hebrew verb would normally be supplied by “is,” and the primary meaning of the verse is that the righteous person hopes for the great joy God promises in the next life because this life can be so challenging (Isa. 35:10; 51:3; 60:15; 61:7; 65:17-19; Jer. 30:19; 31:12-14). However, since the verb is supplied, a secondary meaning is that “the hope of the righteous brings them joy.”

“will perish.” The wicked and all their hopes and dreams will end with annihilation in the Lake of Fire.

[For more on the annihilation of the wicked, see Appendix 5, “Annihilation in the Lake of Fire.]

Pro 10:29

“safe place.” The Hebrew can mean “place of refuge,” “stronghold,” or “mountain stronghold.”

Pro 10:30

“be moved.” The verb is “shaken,” but in this context it means shaken to the point of falling over, thus “toppled.”a In this context it refers to being “shaken” off the land, or “removed.” “moved” or “overthrown.”b

Waltke, Proverbs, vol. 1 [NICOT].
Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew English Lexicon.
Pro 10:31

“cut off.” This is better than “cut out,” which many versions have. The point is that the tongue of the wicked will be stopped, which will happen on Judgment Day. Until that time wickedness will increase. The tongue of the wicked will never really be “cut out.”

Pro 10:32(top)

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