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Go to Bible: Proverbs 27
|Pro 27:1||- (top)|
“vexation by a fool.” This is the figure of speech amphibologia, (cp. Figures of Speech Used in the Bible by E. W. Bullinger for more on that figure. One thing is stated but has two meanings). The verse can and does mean both the provocation that a fool causes to someone else, and what happens when a fool is provoked—he causes such a scene, lashing out, yelling, accusing, etc.(top)
|Pro 27:4||- (top)|
|Pro 27:5||- (top)|
“one who hates you.” In this context, although “one who hates you” is literal, it is referring to an enemy. Thus, the HALOT Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon has “enemy” for this verse, and almost all the English versions do, as well as commentators such as Michael Fox, Bruce Waltke, Robert Alter, and Richard Clifford. Nevertheless, the literal is “one who hates,” and that is true.(top)
|Pro 27:7||- (top)|
“a person who wanders from his place.” For a bird, the bird’s nest is a place of safety and security, as well as family and responsibilities. It is where the bird “belongs” and where it will live and function best. A bird who wanders from the nest (and “wander” has the implication of more permanent wandering, not just “going out for a short walk”) is not only leaving safety and security, it is leaving where it was designed by God to best fit into life and where it functions the most effectively for itself and others.
Similarly, a person who “wanders” from their place is leaving a good measure of safety and security, and also leaving behind the responsibilities they have to God and others, and wanders away for any of a number of reasons—perhaps to find something they don’t have or fill some void they can’t seem to fill.
To understand the fullness of this proverb it is important to realize that, although many English versions say “wanders from home,” the actual Hebrew is “wanders from his place,” and the “place” can be physical, such as a home, or it can be metaphorical for what the person is being called by God to be and do at any given point in life. A person who ignores or abandons what they are called to do for the Lord and who wanders off to somehow find a more satisfying life is like a bird wandering from its nest: things will generally not end well.
Proverbs 27:8 points out that each person has a place in God’s world, with gifts and talents and responsibilities that go with those talents. and people are most blessed and satisfied when they are doing the will of God. But many people get “lost” and can’t seem to find where they fit in. We learn from the scope of Scripture that to help with that situation God has called pastors and helpers who are gifted at helping people find where they fit in for the Lord.(top)
“one’s own counsel.” The Hebrew text reads, the “counsel of the soul.” The HCSB gets the sense correct in it’s translation: “and the sweetness of a friend is better than self-counsel.” This verse has been misunderstood for centuries. The Latin Vulgate, done in the last part of the fourth century, is basically, “the soul is sweetened by the good counsel of a friend.”
The sweet counsel of a friend is always better than trusting that you yourself will be right. Of course, the verse presupposes that a person will have a friend who loves him and will be honest with him. But sadly, many people do not cultivate that kind of friendship with others. A good church leader recognizes the pressures in the world that separate people and works to make his or her church a place where genuine friendships can develop.
There are many verses that talk about the necessity of having good counsel to make plans succeed (Prov. 11:14; 15:22; 24:6) versus trusting one’s own heart in what seems right (Prov. 16:25).(top)
|Pro 27:10||- (top)|
|Pro 27:11||- (top)|
|Pro 27:12||- (top)|
|Pro 27:13||- (top)|
“to him.” The pronoun is ambiguous. Is the loud blessing in the morning counted as a curse to the one who is speaking the blessing, or it the one who is “blessed” with a loud voice counting the blessing to be a curse? Both explanations apply and both seem to be true.(top)
“A persistent dripping on a day of steady rain.” The Hebrew words are the same, and in the same order as Prov. 19:13, (deleph, #01812, דֶּלֶף; tarad, #02956, טָרַד). See commentary on Prov. 19:13.(top)
“restrain her.” The Hebrew is tsaphan (#06845 צָפַן), to hide. However, the reading “hide her” is difficult to most people, and in this context the word can have the meaning “restrain her,” that is, restrain her to stop her nagging and complaining (a few English versions do have “hide,” cp. Geneva Bible; KJV; NAB; NET; Rotherham; YLT). However, the meaning of the Hebrew word is “to hide,” and is extended to mean “to restrain.” Anyone who lives in a neighborhood where the houses are close together knows the embarrassment of having a heated argument in the house that the whole neighborhood can hear, and that is especially the case in nice weather when the windows are open. But in the biblical world every window was always more or less open because there were no glass windows, so a man with a nagging wife was constantly embarrassed. Thus, the husband wished he could hide his wife in a place where she could not be seen or heard, but since such a place was impossible to find in the tightly packed biblical villages and towns, hiding a nagging wife was like trying to hide the sound of the wind or to grasp oil; it could not be done.
Beyond the simple fact that one cannot hide the sound of the wind or grasp oil, there may be important subtle undertones that explain why wind and oil were used as comparisons to the nagging wife. The woman was a constant nag, and a constantly howling wind is a storm; thus, while the home was supposed to be a shelter from the storm, instead the storm was inside the house. Also, fragrant oil was often worn as a perfume by women and was meant to gladden the heart and enhance one’s sexuality and sensuality (Prov. 27:9; Song of Sol. 1:12; 4:13-14), but in this case the oil was wasted and ineffective because the woman was like oil that could not be grasped—and even grasped “in his right hand.” Biblically, the right hand was the hand of blessing. Thus the phrase seems to be intimating that if the man could grasp the “oil” it would be blessed, but alas, it could not even be grasped for a blessing. By her ungodly behavior the woman wasted the blessing that could have been hers (cp. Bruce Waltke, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: Proverbs). [For more on the right hand being the hand of blessing, see commentary on Prov. 3:16 and Matt. 25:33].(top)
|Pro 27:17||- (top)|
“master.” The Hebrew is “lord,” or “master,” and is used of the owner of a slave.(top)
“As the surface of the water reflects a face.” The Hebrew poetry in this proverb is short and difficult to understand. It literally reads, “As water the face to the face, so the heart of a person to a person.” The point of the verse seems to be that water accurately reflects a person’s face, and the heart of a person accurately reflects who a person really is. The NET seems to get the sense well and translates the verse, “As in water a face is reflected as a face, so a person’s heart reflects the person.”
Scholars debate whether the heart reflects the person themself, or someone else’s heart, but the face in the water is the face of the one looking, and similarly, it seems that the heart of a person reflects that person’s heart. Looking into one’s own heart is being paralleled with the way a person can look at the surface of water to see themselves. Looking at the heart does not reveal the physical appearance of the person, like water does, but rather it reveals the character, desires, and moral virtues of the person. Such self-awareness gives a person a better understanding of who they are to enable them to grow in making wise and godly choices. In this context, the “person” is the “real self,” the “inner self,” that makes decisions and choices that affect and direct the heart, and indeed, the whole person.
This proverb is making a different point than what Christ said when he made the statement, “the things that proceed out of the mouth come out of the heart” (Matt. 15:18; cp. Matt. 12:34). Proverbs is saying that the heart reflects the person, while Christ was pointing out that what comes from the mouth reflects the heart.
The Bible says different things in different places, and by reading and studying all of them we can get a basic picture of the way God created us human. The “person,” the “real you” is the “you” that can talk to yourself. It is the invisible self that thinks and plans, and that has desires and aspirations, and that has deep emotions and feels great joy in some circumstances but great pain in other circumstances, and that makes decisions about what to do. Paul referred to it as the “inner self” (cp. Rom. 7:22-23; Eph. 3:16 and 2 Cor. 4:16. In Romans 7:22-23, which is one long sentence, what he calls his “inner self” in the first part of the sentence he calls “my mind” in the last part of the sentence. It is very difficult to define or quantify the inner self, the “real you.” It does not reside in any single part of the body, but is intrinsically connected to the whole body.
What we learn from different verses is that the inner self, the real you, speaks to and influences the whole body. Among the parts of the body that are most influenced is the “heart,” which in biblical times was understood to be the core and seat of the thought life (the emotional life was thought to be dominated by the “guts,” primarily the bowels and kidneys). According to Proverbs 27:19, the heart reflects the “person,” the “inner self,” the “real you.” That makes sense because it is the inner self that is always thinking, making decisions, acting and reacting, etc. So the heart reflects the person, the “real you,” and then the heart directly influences what comes out of the mouth. It is possible that the Bible says what the mouth speaks comes from the heart and not the “inner self” because often our inner self is in conflict with how we behave, which is why Paul writes, “I do not understand my own actions, for I am not practicing what I want, but I am doing the very thing I hate” (Rom. 7:15). Often what we say and do comes out of our heart, but is not the way we—the real inner self—would want to speak and act if we were not so influenced by sin. [For more on the inner self, see commentary on 2 Cor. 4:16].(top)
|Pro 27:20||- (top)|
“tested by the praise he receives.” Refining pots and gold furnaces test metals, remove impurities and reveal the quality of the metal. Similarly, people are tested by the praise they receive. The literal Hebrew is difficult in English and reads, “A refining pot [is] for silver and a furnace [is] for the gold, but a man by the mouth of his praise.” The exact meaning of the last phrase of the verse is unclear because it can mean two different things. In our view, the two meanings are purposeful and are the figure of speech amphibologia (double entendre), where one thing is said but two different things, both true, are meant.
One of the meanings is that a man is tested by the praise he receives, and most translations support that meaning. A man is tested by the praise he receives because the way he reacts to it reveals his heart. Some commentators point out that “a man is tested by the praise he receives” can also mean that the praise a man receives from others (or lack of it), i.e., the public opinion about him, reveals the kind of person he is. While that explanation may be part of what “a man is tested by the praise he receives” means, because public opinion can be so unreliable it is unlikely that that is a primary meaning of the verse.
Michael Fox (The Anchor Yale Bible) agrees with the interpretation that a person is tested by the praise he receives and translates the last phrase of the verse, “a man is tested by the mouth of him who praises him.” The Rabbis generally agree with this interpretation (ArtScroll Tanach Series: Mishlei [Proverbs]). The Complete Jewish Bible reads “a person [is tested] by [his reaction to] praise” (cp. NAB; NAB; NASB; NET; NIV; NLT).
The second meaning of the verse is that a man is tested by what he praises. This interpretation is well-covered by Bruce Waltke (The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Proverbs). Waltke points out that the phrase “by the mouth of” is used not only literally, but also in both Hebrew and cognate Semitic languages as an idiom for “according to.” That idiomatic use would make the verse read that a man is tested according to his praise, in other words, by what he praises. Waltke writes that in this verse “the person is tested by the praise he gives and/or receives,” and adds: “Musicians praise their composers; literate people praise their authors; sports fans praise their heroes; and the godly praise the Lord. Likewise, the immoral praise the adulterer and adulteress, and the covetous praise the rich (Ps. 49:18).” We know foolish people honor fools (Prov. 26:8). Waltke himself translated the verse in a more neutral way that could include both meanings: “a person is tested according to his praise,” but Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible translates the last phrase in the verse as, “a man, [is to be tried] by what he praiseth.”
In conclusion, the Hebrew text can mean both that a person is tested by the praise he receives and also by what he praises. The way a person reacts to praise reveals what is in his heart, and it also tests the quality of the heart and whether or not it will be changed and corrupted by praise. Also, what a person praises tests the heart and reveals what is in it, because we praise what we value and admire. If we are going to know what is in the hearts of other people, we have to pay attention to how they react to being praised, and also to what they praise.(top)
“his foolishness will not depart from him.” This verse is not saying that fools cannot change their ways, because they can. However, it is making the point that there is no way to change them from the outside. There is no discipline or consequence that somehow guarantees a fool will change. We can do what we can to help them see that their ways are harmful to themselves and others, and pray for them, but ultimately they must make the decision to change and then follow up and act on their decision.(top)
|Pro 27:23||- (top)|
|Pro 27:24||- (top)|
|Pro 27:25||- (top)|
|Pro 27:26||- (top)|
|Pro 27:27||- (top)|