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Deeper Commentary

Pro 11:1 A false balance is an abomination to Yahweh, but accurate weights are His delight-
See on Mt. 6:26. "Abomination" is the common word for idols (e.g. Dt. 7:25,26). Idolatry is here interpreted as things like pride and telling lies (:17). These seven things are the essence of idolatry. There is a recurring nature to them, just as idols got a grip on the mind of the worshipper. Solomon often uses the word for quiet, secret sins, words and the matters of the heart, internal attitudes and judgments (Prov. 11:1,20; 12:22; 13:19; 15:26; 16:5; 17:15; 20:10,23; 24:9; 26:25; 28:9; 29:27). And this of course is the essence of idolatry in our age; this is the practical force to us of all Biblical teaching about idolatry.

Pro 11:2 When pride comes then comes shame, but with humility comes wisdom-
This is true, but Solomon seems to be also implying that anyone who doesn't accept his wisdom by which he ruled Israel was therefore proud. Autocratic rulers like Solomon often use appeals to humility to quash any dissent; and he ended up whipping and abusing his people. Pride is the opposite of being shamed; the proud person will be brought down to shame even in this life, according to Solomon. Whereas the Bible often teaches that the proud apparently prosper, and are only brought to shame at the day of final judgment; and this perspective wasn't what Solomon accepted, as he liked to think of himself as the Messiah figure.

Pro 11:3 The integrity of the upright shall guide them, but the perverseness of the treacherous shall destroy them-
"Transgressors" or "traitors" is the term used by David of Saul and his supporters (Ps. 25:3; 59:5; 119:158). Solomon uses this term, teaching that "transgressors" must be rooted out of the earth / eretz promised to Abraham (Prov. 2:22), and that the "transgressors" are to face judgment (Prov. 11:3,6; 13:2; 21:18; 22:12; 23:28; 25:19). All Solomon says is true, but he clearly has in view the house and supporters of Saul, who were a group he felt he needed to repress in order to keep his own kingdom and power intact.

Pro 11:4 Riches don’t profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death-
“Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death” (Prov. 11:4). Riches kept in hand will not help us through the day of judgment. But righteousness, which in the Hebraic parallel in this verse refers to the correct use of riches, will deliver us from eternal death.

David appealed to God's righteousness for deliverance from the consequence of his sins (Ps. 71:2). This was appropriate, seeing that David had been saved from death by God's imputation of His righteousness to David (Ps. 32:1-4), by grace through faith; seeing David's sins left him with no righteousness of his own. And it was on this basis that David believed he would continue to be saved / delivered / rescued (s.w. Ps. 51:14 in the Bathsheba context). But Solomon failed to learn from his mother and father's experience of grace, teaching instead that personal righteousness is what saves (Prov. 10:2; 11:4,6).

Pro 11:5 The righteousness of the blameless will direct his way, but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness-
Solomon thinks of the righteous as walking unflinchingly forward in wisdom, never turning to the right or left, refusing to be distracted by any wicked person who suggests walking another way (Prov. 9:15 "to call travellers who go directly on their way"). This approach fails to take account of the simple fact that righteous people sin and stray from the direct path every day, and are saved finally into God's Kingdom by grace alone. That is all something Solomon failed to have any grasp of, whereas David his father did. Prov. 11:5 makes the somewhat tautological statement that "the righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way", s.w. Prov. 4:25 "fix your gaze directly before you". This contrasts with how David uses the word in Ps. 5:8: "Lead me, O Yahweh... make Your way straight [s.w. direct] before my face". The same statement of God directing in the straight way is found in Is. 45:13; Jer. 18:4 s.w. Solomon didn't see this need for the Spirit of God to direct his path because he assumed that mere possession of Divine truth would itself keep him in the way; hence he teaches that "understanding" makes a man walk "directly" (Prov. 15:21). And he failed miserably because of that arrogant position.

Pro 11:6 The righteousness of the upright shall deliver them, but the unfaithful will be trapped by evil desires-
"Destructive" or "wickedness" is the word used of the wickedness of Ahithophel and Absalom (Ps. 55:11). Solomon's Proverbs seem in places a justification of himself as king over his brother Absalom. He uses the same word to speak of "transgressors are taken in their own wickedness / destructiveness" (Prov. 11:6); how a liar [Absalom] listens to a 'destructive' tongue [in taking advice from Ahithophel] (Prov. 17:4); and how a foolish son [Absalom] is the calamity or destruction of his father (Prov. 19:13).

Pro 11:7 When a wicked man dies, hope perishes, and expectation of power comes to nothing-
David's "expectation" in the context of Ps. 62:5 was the continuation of his own kingdom, despite all the threats against it from the likes of Saul, Absalom and others who would usurp his Davidic kingship and kingdom. Solomon likely uses the word for "expectation" with the same subtext; that all opposition to him was based upon a false expectation which would be dashed by God (s.w. Prov. 10:28; 11:7,23; 23:18; 24:14).

Pro 11:8 A righteous person is delivered out of trouble, and the wicked walks into it in his place-
LXX "A righteous man escapes from a snare, and the ungodly man is delivered up in his place". The allusion may be to David's frequent references to having been saved from the snares of Saul. But David prayed for those deliverances from snares according to God's grace; whereas Solomon sees them as due to righteousness.

Pro 11:9 With his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbour, but the righteous will be delivered through knowledge-
It is indeed true that words have great power, as seen in the 'destruction' of Job by his friends. The tongue is indeed a destructive fire (James 3:5,6). But it is not the case that "knowledge" delivers the righteous. Deliverance / salvation is by grace through faith. Solomon had all the knowledge, but it didn't save him. This is the myth of the idea of "saving truth"; intellectual purity of understanding will not of itself save.

Pro 11:10 When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices. When the wicked perish, there is shouting-
This had various historical fulfillments, not least in the destruction of Haman and exaltation of Mordecai (Esther 8:15; 2 Kings 11:20; 2 Chron. 23:21). But again Solomon is rather simplistic. When the wicked Absalom perished, David mourned, and likewise for Saul.

Pro 11:11 By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted, but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked-
Solomon repeatedly condemns "the mouth of the wicked" (Prov. 10:6,11,32; 11:11; 12:6; 15:28; 19:28). All he says is true enough, but he clearly enough has in view how his father David had condemned the supporters of Saul and Absalom as having "the mouth of the wicked" (Ps. 109:2). And these were the groups who were threatening his power and throne. Solomon presents himself by implication as having the mouth of the just / righteous. And yet we must note that David too had spoken multiple words of deceit in relation to the murder of Uriah. Indeed the phrase is used in Is. 53:9 as if the Lord Jesus was the only man who didn't have a "mouth of deceit". Solomon like David was in denial of the fact that we all sin with our mouths, as James makes clear in James 3:1-3.

Pro 11:12 One who despises his neighbour is without wisdom, but a man of understanding holds his peace-
The person without / lacking or void of understanding is typically the adulterer or sexual sinner (s.w. Prov. 6:32; 7:7; 9:4,16). So the despising of the neighbour particularly refers to adultery with his wife. I have noted that in previous verses, Solomon is seeking to justify his father David and the Davidic succession through himself. But he overlooks how David sinned with Bathsheba. Or, he is indeed alluding to it, but is saying that although his father lacked wisdom at that point, the man of understanding / wisdom will say nothing about it.

Pro 11:13 One who brings gossip betrays a confidence, but one who is of a trustworthy spirit is one who keeps a secret-
David frequently complains in his Psalms about gossip about him, both at the time of Saul's persecution of him and of Absalom's rebellion and putsch. "Keeps a secret" is AV "concealeth the matter", and may continue the theme of :12; that despite David's unwisdom in sleeping with Bathsheba [which is still whitewashing David, as what he did was a major sin and not just a lack of wisdom], the faithful will conceal the matter instead of gossiping about. Which is clearly what happened amongst those who were to become contenders against Solomon for the throne.

Pro 11:14 Where there is no wise guidance the nation falls, but in the multitude of counsellors there is victory-
The nation" is better "the people". And the people of Israel fell in war with the Philistines, under Saul's unwise leadership (s.w. 2 Sam. 1:4,12). Whereas under David, they were led to victory. Always Solomon seems to want to justify his father David. "Victory" is AV "safety", and may allude to how the lives of Solomon and David were saved by wise counsellors (s.w. 1 Kings 1:12). Solomon may also be having a swipe at Ahithophel, the grandfather of his mother Bathsheba, who began as a wise counsellor but then became an unwise counsellor when he turned against David.

Pro 11:15 He who is collateral for a stranger will suffer for it, but he who refuses pledges of collateral is secure-
The law of Moses didn't forbid giving or taking collateral for loans, it accepted this would happen (Ex. 22:25-27). But Solomon in the Proverbs is quite obsessed with forbidding it in very strong terms (Prov. 6:1-3; 11:15; 17:18; 20:16; 22:26; 27:13- all quite some emphasis). Perhaps Solomon recalled some bad experience in his family because of this. There is the otherwise curious statement in 1 Sam. 17:18 that David's brothers, Solomon's uncles, were to return a collateral. Perhaps this ruined the family and Solomon's wisdom has some human element in it, reflecting his own bad experiences in his family life. But there is nothing wrong with giving or taking collateral for a loan; what is condemned in God's law is the abuse of the debtor and the abuse of the situation. Indeed David and Hezekiah ask God to be collateral for their needs and debts in various ways (Ps. 119:122; Is. 38:14). And God gives the Holy Spirit in our hearts as collateral on His debt, as He sees it, to save us (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14); and in response we give our hearts as a pledge to Him (Jer. 30:21 Heb.). So forbidding the practice seems out of step with the spirit of grace. It would mean asking of God what we are unprepared to do for others. Solomon had not known need, neither material nor spiritual, and it shows in his attitude to this matter. It makes hollow all Solomon's exhortations to be generous to your poor neighbour and to be a brother in adversity to your neighbour (Prov. 14:21; 17:17). Solomon is here reasoning from the viewpoint of secular wisdom.

Pro 11:16 A gracious woman obtains honour, but violent men obtain riches-
"Violent men" is AV "strong men". The idea seems to be that grace and strength are associated with the wisdom which Solomon sees as bringing honour and wealth. But the word for "obtains" is used by David always with the sense that it is God who obtains / establishes / holds up the righteous, by grace (s.w. Ps. 16:5; 17:5; 41:12; 63:8). Although Solomon is obsessed with "David my father" and forever justifying him, he totally fails to have the perspective of grace and humility which characterized him.

Pro 11:17 The merciful man does good to his own soul, but he who is cruel troubles his own flesh-
This continues the theme of :16, that the advantage of wisdom is that it benefits you in this life; and the unwise are only hurting themselves. Whilst this is true, it seems an altogether human and secular approach to God's truth. Because the purpose of our believing, obedient lives is for God's wider glory, and to pave the way for life in His Kingdom in the future. But these things seem almost unknown to Solomon. "The merciful man" may be a reference to Solomon's ancestor Boaz (s.w. Ruth 2:20). This kind of self-justification of his ancestral line is seen so often in Solomon's words.

Pro 11:18 Wicked people earn deceitful wages, but one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward-
Reading this verse along with :19 leads us to conclude that the wages in view are life for the righteous, seen as a just reward; and death for the wicked. But as noted on :19, this is not really true to spiritual reality. For all men sin, there is not one righteous, as David realized (Rom. 3:10). Later, Solomon cynically concludes that the wicked and the righteous all die the same death, and so, he concludes, there is no great advantage in righteousness (Ecc. 9:2). This contrasts with Solomon's huge emphasis in Proverbs upon the difference between the wicked and the righteous (e.g. Prov. 11:18). But it seems he got to that wrong conclusion because he assumes that the blessing for righteousness is in this life, and likewise the curses for wickedness. He totally fails to think in terms of the future judgment and eternal life of God's future kingdom. And so as he himself got older and approached death, he concluded that death means that all effort towards righteousness is therefore vain. He made the same mistake as the false teachers of 1 Cor. 15:19, who likewise considered that "hope in Christ" was only helpful for "this life", because they rejected the resurrection of the body and future judgment and reward.   

Pro 11:19 He who is truly righteous gets life; he who pursues evil gets death-
The LXX implies that the righteous are born that way and shall inherit eternal life simply because of their pedigree; and Solomon was the classic case of this, totally overlooking the conditional nature of the promises made to David about him: "A righteous son is born for life: but the persecution of the ungodly ends in death". Whilst these things are true in a sense, Paul in Romans 1-8 points out the obvious truth than no man apart from the Lord Jesus "is truly righteous", and eternal life is a gift by grace. And "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23) for us all, and not just those who "pursue evil"; for all have sinned. The life and death in view here are perhaps the "wages" of :18.

Pro 11:20 Those who are perverse in heart are an abomination to Yahweh, but those whose ways are blameless are His delight-
Solomon rightly emphasizes that the "perverse" or "wayward" are wayward in their hearts (Prov. 11:20; 17:20), leading to wayward ways in practice (Prov. 2:15); but he repeats his father's mistake, in saying he will have nothing to do with those who are wayward in their hearts (s.w. Ps. 101:4). The mistake was in assuming that he could judge human hearts. It continues the far over simplified view of people which Solomon has; the righteous have pure hearts, always obedient; and wicked have bad hearts. But the Bible warns that all of us have hearts which are fountains of evil thoughts (Mk. 7:15,21-23 etc.).  

Pro 11:21 Most certainly, the evil man will not be unpunished, but the seed of the righteous will be delivered-
The contrast is between the evil man [who is punished] and the seed of the righteous [who is saved]. Salvation is thereby predicated upon being the seed of the righteous. Solomon speaks hundreds of time of "David my father"; he considered his salvation was assured because of his father. But again, this is not fully the case. Personal spirituality is required.

Pro 11:22 Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout, so is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion-
The same term is used of Tamar, daughter of Solomon's half brother Absalom (2 Sam. 14:27), whose family would have been potential contenders with Solomon for the throne. He as ever is using Divine truth in a way which knocks back his enemies and portrays himself as justified. "Beautiful woman" is the term Solomon uses about his illicit Gentile girlfriend (Song 1:8), and it is the term sarcastically used about her by Israelite competitors (Song 5:9; 6:1). Seeing Solomon's wives were idolaters, they lacked discretion; and yet Solomon loved them and married them. He behaved with women completely opposite to his own teachings.

Pro 11:23 The desire of the righteous is only for good; the expectation of the wicked is wrath-
This again seems rather simplistic, drawing a dualistic picture of the righteous who seek only good, whereas the wicked can only expect the wrath of Divine judgment. Yet "there is none righteous" (Rom. 3:10), and our desires are not only and solely for good. There are mixed motives in even the best of us. We are saved from wrath by grace and being counted righteous by that grace, as Paul makes clear (Rom. 5:9).

Pro 11:24 There is one who scatters, and increases yet more. There is one who withholds more than is appropriate, but gains poverty-
The one who scatters widely is the generous (:25); and Solomon sees generosity as sure to bring more wealth. But if this is the motive for our generosity, then this isn't surely the kind of self-sacrificial giving until it costs us which God wishes of us. It all fits with the same theme, of righteousness having advantage in this life, and surely bringing wealth. But as I have commented elsewhere, this just isn't the case. And the mean often do not find poverty, but rather apparent wealth. This surely was the intention of the Lord's parable of the rich fool, which can be read as a correction of Solomon's perspective. The difference between the generous and the mean will only be finally articulated in the judgment of the last day, and not in this life. But Solomon refused to be aware of that, and therefore as he came nearer to his own death, he lost his faith and wrote the rejection of wisdom we have in Ecclesiastes.

Pro 11:25 The generous soul shall be made fat; he who waters shall be watered also himself-
As discussed on :24, Solomon sees the advantage of generosity and wisdom generally as being for this life. He totally lacks any sense of a judgment and Kingdom yet to come. And this was the root of his own spiritual undoing. David saw himself as being "made fat" by God's grace (Ps. 23:5, s.w. "anoint"), whereas Solomon sees this as a direct result of the good deeds of the righteous, such as generosity (Prov. 11:25) and hard work (Prov. 13:4). This is exactly the kind of justification by works which Paul argues against in Romans.

Pro 11:26 People curse someone who withholds grain, but blessing will be on the head of him who sells it-
The allusion may be to Joseph selling the grain he had stored. But Solomon sees the motivation for such behaviour as being to get a blessing from people. To do good is seen as the way to get favour or blessing from men (:27). And yet the Biblical emphasis is upon the blessing of Divine grace, a teaching found right back in the covenant with Abraham. At this point, Solomon is heavily pushing a works-based righteousness, whose end is in having a good life right now. Again, the perspective of the future Kingdom is totally absent.

 Pro 11:27 He who diligently seeks good seeks favour, but he who searches after evil, it shall come to him-
As noted on :26, the idea is that one should do good because this is the way to favour or blessing from men. But David emphasizes the need to receive favour / acceptance from God, which is granted by His grace in response to repentance (Ps. 30:5,7; 51:18; 69:13; 106:4).

Pro 11:28 He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous shall flourish as the green leaf-
The same words as in David's vision of how Solomon's kingdom would be in Ps. 72:7: "In his days, the righteous shall flourish". So Solomon's later statement here that the righteous would flourish is therefore a reference to this, assuming that David's fantasy of Solomon having an eternal kingdom was going to be fulfilled in him. In Ps. 92:11,12, David thinks that he himself will see the righteous flourishing (s.w. Ps. 72:7). So he may be imagining that he would somehow be resurrected and see this happening in Solomon's reign. His hope will come ultimately true, but through the kingdom of the Lord Jesus and not Solomon.

Pro 11:29 He who troubles his own house shall inherit the wind. The foolish shall be servant to the wise of heart-
Solomon appears to be overlooking how his father David had troubled his own house, according to the condemnation of Nathan. Such a person will inherit nothing; whereas Solomon liked to think that the Davidic line through him would inherit everything. It appears that Solomon had a blindness to the nature of his parents' sin, and whitewashed them in his own mind, rather than presenting them [as David would have wished] as the parade example of Divine grace.

Pro 11:30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; he who is wise wins souls-
This is true insofar as we really can be the source of life for others. But access to the tree of life has been taken away because of human sin; only in the restored Eden of the Kingdom of God on earth will we be able to eat the fruit of the tree of life. Indeed God in His grace and wisdom barred access to the tree of life, knowing that eternity in our present state would be a curse. But Solomon likes to think that his kingdom is the Kingdom of God, and the life according to his wisdom was effectively the life eternal. Again we see a failure in Solomon to perceive that the true life and restoration of Eden was yet future. This would explain why as he got older and approached death, he became disillusioned; for clearly his life had not been the life of the Kingdom.  

Pro 11:31 Behold, the righteous shall be repaid in the earth; how much more the wicked and the sinner!
LXX "If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?". The righteous remnant who spoke often to one another about Yahweh will only be "spared" by God's grace (Mal. 3:17). The accepted will feel so certain of this that they will almost argue with the Lord Jesus at the day of judgment that He hasn't made the right decision concerning them (Mt. 25:37-40). It's only a highly convicted man who would dare do that. Thus the Father will have to comfort the faithful in the aftermath of the judgment, wiping away the tears which will then (see context) be in our eyes, and give us special help to realize that our sinful past has now finally been overcome (Rev. 21:4). We will be like the labourers in the parable who walk away clutching their penny, thinking "I really shouldn't have this. I didn't work for a day, and this is a day's pay".

Peter quotes this in 1 Pet. 4:18, although he quotes liberally and mixing quotation with interpretation. Peter never introduces his quotations as Paul does, with an "It is written...". And he always quotes from the LXX, and often in a rather loose way. Peter was illiterate, and would have known the LXX quotations by memory, recollecting how they had been read to him, rather than having read them with his own eyes and memorized them. And this shows in the way he quotes the Old Testament- although the whole process and final product was Divinely inspired.