Proverbs Chapter 26  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: Proverbs 26
Pro 26:1(top)
Pro 26:2(top)
Pro 26:3(top)
Pro 26:4

Proverbs 26:4-5 make a revealing couplet. They contradict each other, and for good reason. There is no good way to deal with a fool. If you answer him according to his folly, you will be seen to be a fool, like him. On the other hand, if you answer a fool according to his folly, he will think himself wise, like yourself. It is impossible to reason with a fool. They are convinced in their own mind. Proverbs exhorts people to get away from fools (Prov 14:7).

Pro 26:5

See commentary on Prov. 26:4.

Pro 26:6

“One who cuts off his own feet.” This proverb warns about trusting a fool to do important work. If you chop off your own feet, you cannot deliver a message, but that is in effect what happens when you give the message to a fool—it will not arrive. And even if it does arrive, it will be so mangled that it will cause harm instead of being helpful. Also, the meaning of the phrase “drinks violence” is that the person who has sent the fool is hurting himself. The phrase is referring to what happens to the person who sends a message via a fool: the message gets lost or misinterpreted and that leads to violence for the one who sent the fool. Sending a message via a fool is a self-destructive action and the sender becomes the injured party when the fool turns out to be unreliable.

Pro 26:7

The legs of a lame person dangle uselessly, they carry no “weight” (authority), and are unable to carry him where he wants to go. Similarly, if a fool does speak a proverb, trying to act wise, it “dangles” uselessly from his lips. It has no authority, because the speaker has no authority. Furthermore, it was likely spoken inappropriately. In any case, like the lame leg, a proverb spoken by a fool will not get him where he intended to go; it will not have the meaning or impact that he wanted it to have.

Pro 26:8

“As one who entangles a stone in a sling.” This Proverb involves a custom that we must know in order to understand the verse. The Hebrew word “entangles,” more literally, “ties,” is tseror (#06872 צְרוֹר), and it means to tie up or bind up. The purpose of a sling was to throw a stone, so who would ever tie a stone in a sling? The answer is no one would do that on purpose. The oriental sling consisted of a diamond shaped or rectangular “cup” (a shallow pouch), with two cords attached to it, one on each end. The cords were usually made of yarn or leather. To get ready to sling a stone, the slinger placed a rock in the pouch, and held the two cords between his fingers so that the cords hung down toward the ground, parallel to each other. To throw the stone from the pouch, the slinger swung the loaded sling around in a circular motion, and at the right time (which was learned by practice), let go of one of the cords. This allowed the rock to come out of the pouch and travel toward the target. The great key to slinging accurately is to be able to swing the sling around in its circular motion while moving the wrist in such a way that the cords remain parallel to each other. If the cords stay parallel and are not tangled or twisted, the stone will release smoothly and cleanly from the pouch. Novice slingers sometimes do not get the wrist motion correct, and as the sling is swung around, the two cords begin to twist around each other instead of staying parallel. Then, when the slinger releases one of the cords, instead of a quick and clean release, the cords have to unravel, making the stone release late. Since the sling is going in a circular motion, when the sling releases late the stone is released in the wrong direction. This can be devastating in war. At best, the slinger would simply miss the enemy, but at worst, the stone would release so late that it would hit a fellow soldier. The Proverb is powerful and picturesque to someone who understands slinging. A slinger who is not paying attention and twists his cords, binding the stone in the sling will hit the wrong person with the stone. So too, the person who gives honor to a fool has “hit the wrong person.” The fool does not deserve the honor.

Pro 26:9

“a thorn that goes into the hand.” As a drunk stumbles around and gets a thorn in his hand, thus hurting and embarrassing himself, so too a fool cannot grasp the proper sense and application of a proverb and ends up making a fool of himself with it.

There are some commentators and translators that nuance the verb “to go up,” and interpret it as meaning that the drunk picks up a thorn bush (instead of a “thorn;” the Hebrew can mean either one), and then hurts others with it. According to that interpretation, the drunk hurts others with the thorn bush and the fool hurts people with his proverb (cp. CJB; HCSB; NAB; NIV; NLT; and Bruce Waltke, Proverbs). Although that might be true, it is stretching the Hebrew meaning of the verb, and it is not necessary to do that since understanding the verse as saying that the drunk and the fool are both hurt by what they do makes good sense.

Pro 26:10

Like an archer who wounds everyone.” This verse has been called the most obscure verse in Proverbs (C. D. Snell, Vetus Testamentum, 41 (1991), pp. 350-356), and the immense differences in the translations of it give evidence for that assessment.

YLT: Great is the Former of all, And He is rewarding a fool, And is rewarding transgressors.

Bullinger: A master [workman] formeth all things aright: but he that hireth a fool, hireth a transgressor [who will spoil the work].

NRSV: Like an archer who wounds everybody is one who hires a passing fool or drunkard.

NIV: Like an archer who wounds at random is he who hires a fool or any passer-by.

The newer research in Hebrew has pretty well shown that the first part of the verse refers to an archer who wounds people, in the same way that the first part of verse 9 refers to a drunk who hurts people. The second stanza of the verse is much less clear, however. Our translation, along with the ASV, NASB, and NIV, follows our understanding of the Hebrew text. The idea of a drunkard in some translations (ESV; NRSV, NJB), comes from the Targum and Syriac, not the Hebrew text. Although it is possible that those versions preserve the meaning of the text, given the immediate context of drunkards and their violent behavior, we felt it better to stick with the Hebrew text, since it made sense also.

Pro 26:11(top)
Pro 26:12(top)
Pro 26:13

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

Pro 26:14

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

Pro 26:15

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

Pro 26:16

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

Pro 26:17(top)
Pro 26:18

“death.” The word “death” is put by the figure of speech metonymy for things that cause death, such as the arrows.

Pro 26:19(top)
Pro 26:20(top)
Pro 26:21(top)
Pro 26:22(top)
Pro 26:23

“silver dross.” Some scholars argue from the Ugaritic that this should be translated as “silver glaze,” but many other scholars disagree. There is no necessary reason to change the Hebrew text. The point of the verse is that just as a clay vessel covered in silver dross is made to look valuable but is deceptive, so are smooth lips that conceal a wicked heart.

“smooth.” The Hebrew text reads “burning,” but the Septuagint reads “smooth” and the difference in Hebrew between “smooth” and “burning” is a single pen downstroke to change a “daleth” into a “chet.” There are other references to “smooth” lips (or smooth talk) in the Book of Proverbs (cp. Prov. 5:3; 26:28; 2:16; 7:5, 21; 28:23; 29:5), but no other to “burning lips.” Also, “smooth” lips are known in the culture to be deceptive, but the phrase “burning lips” is unusual and the meaning is not easily discerned.

Pro 26:24

“A person who hates.” Some versions, commentators, and lexicons (cp. HALOT), see this phrase as meaning, “an enemy” (cp. NAB; NIV2011; Douay-Rheims; NRSV). People who hate others, and enemies, often disguise the truth by lying.

“harbors deceit.” The literal Hebrew is “places deceit,” but in this context it means to harbor deceit.

Pro 26:25(top)
Pro 26:26(top)
Pro 26:27

“The person who digs a pit will fall into it.” The context and scope of Scripture shows us that the person digging a pit and rolling the stone is doing so with an evil intent. It is a consistent theme through Scripture that evil people bring evil upon themselves (see commentary on Prov. 1:18).

Pro 26:28(top)

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