Proverbs Chapter 18  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: Proverbs 18
Pro 18:1(top)
Pro 18:2

“understanding.” The Hebrew word is tabun (#08394 תָּבוּן ) (fem., tebunah)

“expressing his own mind.” In the Hebrew culture and idiom, “heart” referred to the seat of thinking and knowing, not the seat of emotion like it does in today’s English culture. This verse is not saying that a fool “expresses his heart” in the modern sense of the phrase, which is to express the deep feelings and emotions inside you. In this context is simply means to speak what is on one’s mind. This phrase has been translated as “airing his own opinion” (NIV); “revealing his own mind” (NASB). The point is that the fool is not interested in understanding what others think, he is interested in telling others what he thinks. [For more on the Hebrew word “heart,” see commentary on Prov. 6:32].

Pro 18:3(top)
Pro 18:4(top)
Pro 18:5

“show favoritism.” The Hebrew is “lift up the face,” which is an idiom of acceptance and therefore in this context partiality. The sense of the verse is achieved, but without the important reference to the face, by saying that it is not good to show partiality to the wicked.

“wicked…righteous.” Although the Hebrew words are “wicked” and “righteous,” in a legal context, which this is as we can see from the word “judgment,” often “wicked” means “guilty,” and “righteous” means “innocent.” That is why some of the English versions are translated that way. For example, the NLT reads: “It is not right to acquit the guilty or deny justice to the innocent.” While that translation is certainly true, it seems that the more literal translations, “wicked” and “righteous” are more widely applicable and are true also, which is why most English versions such as the REV translate that way.

“deprive.” When a wicked person is shown favoritism, it deprives the righteous of justice.

Pro 18:6

“lips…mouth.” Lips and mouth are put by metonymy for what is spoken by them, or they can be seen as the figure personification, as if the lips and mouth act on their own volition. A fool has no self-control and says whatever is on his mind, and that gets him into trouble.

Pro 18:7

“to his soul.” Here, “soul” has the simple meaning of the person himself. His lips are a snare to him. Thus the first and second stanza are saying much the same thing. [For more on the uses of soul, see Appendix 7, “Usages of ‘Soul’”].

Pro 18:8

“one’s innermost being.” The Hebrew is more literally, “the inner rooms of the belly” (or “body,” “womb”). It is due to the sin nature of mankind that people are so quick to believe anything bad about people or a situation. It is also due to the sin nature of mankind that people often exaggerate how bad a person or situation is. Believers must use great self-control when speaking so that they speak the truth about a situation and only what benefits the other person; some “truth” does not need to be spoken. Furthermore, every believer must be on guard against others lying or exaggerating the facts of a situation. One of the Ten Commandments is, “You must not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exod. 20:16). Exaggerating what someone has done wrong, or lying about them even if it is “the way you see it,” is a very serious sin in the eyes of God. Each human being is created in the image of God, and if we unjustly attack another person we attack God’s creation and offend Him, whereas we are supposed to be loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Pro 18:9(top)
Pro 18:10

“secure.” The Hebrew word is sagab (#07682 שָׂגַב), and it literally means “to be lifted up,” to be high, to be inaccessibly high, and in some contexts (but not here) “to be exalted.” The word-picture being drawn in this verse is that the name of Yahweh is a strong tower and those that run to it are high above the spears and arrows of the enemy and are safe and secure.

Pro 18:11(top)
Pro 18:12

“puffed up.” The Hebrew gives a more literal but perhaps less clear word picture: “the heart of man is high before disaster.”

Pro 18:13(top)
Pro 18:14

“person’s.” The word “person” is iysh (#0376 אִישׁ), which most literally refers to a man, but it can also be used to refer to men and women, and it makes sense to translate it in a gender-neutral way in this context (see commentary on Prov. 2:12, “the one”).

Pro 18:15(top)
Pro 18:16

“gift.” The Hebrew word is mattan (#04976 מַתָּן) and means a gift, offering, or present. In the context it is a gift given to curry favor, and that is the way it is used in Proverbs. It is used of gifts given for selfish reasons, including gaining an advantage over others. In this case, people with “gifts” gain entry to the rich and powerful, especially those in government whom they would otherwise not get to see, and that gives them a distinct advantage over the poor who cannot afford such gifts. It is in effect a bribe, but translating it “bribe” is going too far. A bribe is always considered wrong, while the gift here may or may not be immoral or illegal, even though it is given with the purpose of currying favor.

“creates opportunity.” The Hebrew word is literally, “enlarges,” or “makes wide” for him. Thus the gift enlarges his possibilities, it creates opportunity for him.

“leads.” The Hebrew word is nachah (#05148 נָחָה) and means “to lead,” or “to guide.” This is the figure of speech personification. The gift, or bribe, is now seen as a guide that leads the person forward on the path he desires to walk on but with which he is unfamiliar.

Pro 18:17(top)
Pro 18:18

“lots.” The Hebrew is singular, and a more literal but much less easily understood translation would be, “The lot removes quarrels (or ‘contentions’).” The custom behind this verse is that often when a choice needed to be made, “lots,” which were often stone or bone, were cast. Or, they were put into a bag or the folds of someone’s garment and then a “lot” was drawn which decided the “winner,” and the dispute was over or the decision made. It was believed that God would assure that the lot was won by the right person. The Apostles chose a replacement for Judas by lot (Acts 1:23-26).

Pro 18:19

is harder to win.” The Hebrew is very difficult and this is one of the generally accepted ways to translate the text (cp. HCSB; KJV; NASB; NET; NIV). However, it is also possible that the Hebrew is more like the translation done by Michael Fox in the Anchor Bible: “An offended brother is like a fortified city, and quarrels are like the bar of a palace.” In that case, if an offended brother is like a fortified city then he would be hard to win over, but another meaning, perhaps even a double meaning, becomes possible: the brother is like a fortified city in that he has shut his brother out; the quarrel has caused him to close and bar his gate and he is not interested in a friendly relationship with his brother any more.

We live in an emotionally undisciplined time when people say very hurtful and often exaggerated or untrue things. This is not only ungodly and sin, it can result in damaging personal relationships for years if not for life. The Bible warns us to put away anger, bitterness, and defaming speech (Eph. 4:31), and it is wise to obey God in that matter. It will make a difference in this life and the next.

“the barred gate of a castle.” The Hebrew is literally, “the bar of a castle,” but that is unclear to most English readers who do not understand that “the bar of a castle” is the bar that goes across the inside of the gates and keeps them from being opened. When Samson tore the gates off the Philistine city of Gaza and carried them away, he took them “bar and all” and carried them away (Judg. 16:3). Contentions are like the barred gate of a city; they can make being “open” to each other difficult and even sometimes impossible.

Pro 18:20

“person’s.” The word “person” is iysh (#0376 אִישׁ), which most literally refers to a man, but it can also be used to refer to men and women, and it makes sense to translate it in a gender-neutral way in this context (see commentary on Prov. 2:12, “the one”).

Pro 18:21

“and those who love it will eat of its fruit.” When the text says, those who love “it,” the “it” refers to the tongue. The “tongue” is put by metonymy for the words spoken, because the tongue is able to deliver words of death or life. Those who love “it” are people who enjoy the power that language brings, and they use their tongue in a way that achieves their desired objectives. These objectives can be positive (i.e., giving life), or negative (i.e., producing death). But the proverb is also asserting that in a reciprocal way, the person speaking will reap the reward or consequence of their words. An interesting fact about speaking is that the effect the words have on the hearer is also the effect that the words have on the speaker. The speaker who speaks words of life also gets life as a consequence of what they say, while the one who speaks words of death reaps the consequence of death from what they say.

Pro 18:22(top)
Pro 18:23(top)
Pro 18:24

“person.” The word “person” is iysh (#0376 אִישׁ), which most literally refers to a man, but it can also be used to refer to men and women, and it makes sense to translate it in a gender-neutral way in this context (see commentary on Prov. 2:12, “the one”).


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