New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Pro 18:1 An unfriendly man pursues selfishness, and defies all sound judgment-
AV "a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom"; LXX "A man who wishes to separate from friends seeks excuses; but at all times he will be liable to reproach". The same word is used in Prov. 19:4: "The poor is separated from his friend". Separation from others is seen as unwisdom, and therefore associated with poverty; for Solomon thinks that wisdom brings wealth and unwisdom brings poverty. Solomon presents a picture of any deviation from the society which he presided over being punished; by poverty, and being reproached as unwise.

Pro 18:2 A fool has no delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own opinion-
This is true, but we must remember that Solomon is presenting himself as the teacher of understanding; anyone who doesn't want to accept him, or has "his own opinion", gets reproached and mocked by Solomon.

Pro 18:3 When wickedness comes, contempt also comes, and with shame comes disgrace-
Solomon presents the disadvantage of sin as being the shame and disgrace it brings in this life. Solomon never seems to emphasize that the real intention and blessing of wisdom is to lead us to God's eternal Kingdom in the future. He sees the reward of wisdom as solely in this life, because he considered his kingdom to be God's Kingdom, and himself to be the Messiah figure.

Pro 18:4 The words of a man’s mouth are like deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is like a flowing brook-
LXX "A word in the heart of a man is a deep water, and a river and fountain of life spring forth". The sense may be that if a word of wisdom is placed within a man's heart, it becomes a fountain of life for others. The Lord uses a similar figure in Jn. 7:38,39 for the water of life which can pour from a man's innermost being, once he truly accepts the word of the Gospel. When He says that this was "as the scripture has said", this may be one of the passages He had in mind. Our witness to others is therefore from our innermost being, from the word of the Gospel believed and firmly lodged in the deepest heart.

Pro 18:5 To be partial to the faces of the wicked is not good, nor to deprive the innocent of justice-
The idea is that the man of wisdom will judge cases fairly. But the average Israelite was not a courtroom judge. And so Solomon, as so often, has himself in view as the parade example of what he means. And the implication is that his judgments were perfect and beyond question, apart from by fools. But he fails to appreciate that a man can hold Divine truth and correct judgments in his intellectual understanding, and yet judge and live otherwise.

Pro 18:6 A fool’s lips come into strife, and his speech asks for beatings-
Solomon became famed for beating his people (1 Kings 12:11). He came to assume that his people were fools, and he could abuse them therefore, at will. Those who are lifted up with pride at their possession of "truth" often come to despise and abuse others. 

Pro 18:7 A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are a snare to his soul-
This continues the major Biblical theme that the condemned are essentially self condemned; out of their own mouths they will be judged at the last day (Lk. 19:22). In this we see the critical importance of our words, and the thinking which they inevitably express (Mt. 12:34). But Solomon sees the outcome of folly as being in this life, for he has nothing much to say about the last judgment and the future Kingdom; for he considered himself the ultimate Messianic judge of men, and his kingdom to be God's Kingdom. 

Pro 18:8 The words of a gossip are like tasty morsels: they go down into a person’s innermost parts-
Solomon rightly condemns gossip and the stirring up of divisions. But he is writing up his Divinely given wisdom at the start of his reign, where there were various groups of opposition to him. These groupings had all arisen from the divisions which arose after his parents' sin with each other; they were a consequence for David's sin, which Nathan had prophesied. Inevitably, David's behaviour had invited all manner of gossip and strife. But Solomon seems to blame this on the gossipers, and carefully considers they alone are guilty; for he is ever glorifying and whitewashing his father David. And yet what he writes is so true; throwaway comments of gossip take deep lodgment in the hearers.

LXX "Fear casts down the slothful; and the souls of the effeminate shall hunger".

Pro 18:9 One who is slack in his work is brother to him who is a master of destruction-
Again Solomon is exalting works and therefore condemning laziness as the worst sin. To omit to do anything is, in his book, as bad as the man who actively and zealously destroys. But Solomon was wired to be an active, hard working person; and he is glorifying his own personality type, reinforcing who he was anyway as a person; rather than exploring the wonder of salvation by grace without works. LXX implies that hard work is necessary to help ourselves; all idea of God helping us by grace is just not considered: "A man who helps not himself by his labour is brother of him that ruins himself".

Pro 18:10 The name of Yahweh is a strong tower: the righteous run into Him, and are safe-
Solomon presents his father David's being 'set on high' (Ps. 69:29) as programmatic for the exaltation of all the righteous; he sees David as the epitome of the righteous, and thereby justifies the Davidic dynasty (s.w. Prov. 18:10; 29:25). Ultimately these words come true in entering the Name by baptism into it.

Pro 18:11 The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, like an unscalable wall in his own imagination-
This was precisely what Solomon did. Solomon was given his wealth by God as a gift, as grace; and not because he was faithful; see on Prov. 17:6. But he abuses that grace and assumes that gift was some kind of reward for his faithfulness. And elsewhere he argues that poverty is a result of lacking faith. Solomon realized the danger of the rich man's wrong "own imagination". But he goes and makes that very mistake. He has no self-examination, no personalization of truth, because he considered that the mere possession of truth thereby justified him.

Pro 18:12 Before destruction the heart of man is proud, but before honour is humility-
This is the very phrase used about David, when he says his heart is not lifted up (Ps. 131:1). Solomon is presenting his father as the pinnacle of spirituality.

Pro 18:13 He who gives answer before he hears, that is folly and shame to him-
LXX "Whoso answers a word before he hears a cause". This is the language of the courtroom. But the average Israelite was not a courtroom judge. And so Solomon, as so often, has himself in view as the parade example of what he means. And the implication is that his judgments were perfect and beyond question, apart from by fools. And again we note that he considers folly to be bad because it can lead to shame in this life; he has no sense of the connection between present behaviour and our eternal outcomes at the last day of judgment.

Pro 18:14 A man’s spirit will sustain him in sickness, but a crushed spirit, who can bear?-
Solomon teaches that a crushed or broken spirit is a curse (Prov. 15:13; 17:22; 18:14), and an indication that something is wrong with the core of a person; because an unbroken spirit will "make a cheerful face" (Prov. 15:13), and external appearance and having joy in this life was of primary importance to Solomon. He fails to realize that his father David had a broken spirit (Ps. 31:12; 38:8; 44:19; 51:8,17; 69:20- all a fair emphasis), and had thereby understood that Yahweh is especially close to those with a broken spirit (Ps. 34:18; 147:13), indeed the Gospel is for the broken spirited, and the broken hearted are not to be mocked (Ps. 109:16).

Pro 18:15 The heart of the discerning gets knowledge; the ear of the wise seeks knowledge-
"Gets" is LXX "purchases". But elsewhere Solomon implies that wisdom cannot be bought. He may be alluding, as in :16, to the ambassadors of the nations who came to him, bearing gifts in order to hear and 'get' Solomon's Divine wisdom. But what he says is true enough; there is an upward spiral in spirituality, whereby the wise get wiser, and part of their wisdom is to desire more of it.

Pro 18:16 A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men-
He may be alluding, as in :15, to the ambassadors of the nations who came to him, bearing gifts in order to hear and 'get' Solomon's Divine wisdom. And yet he thereby implies that he is one of the "great men", possibly an intensive plural referring to the one great man, referring to himself.

Pro 18:17 He who pleads his cause first seems right; until another comes and questions him-
As in :13, this is the language of the courtroom, and is advice to judges. But the average Israelite was not a courtroom judge. And so Solomon, as so often, has himself in view as the parade example of what he means. And the implication is that his judgments were perfect and beyond question, apart from by fools. He is alluding to his judgment of the two prostitutes in 1 Kings 3:17.

Pro 18:18 The lot settles disputes, and keeps strong ones apart-
The majority of Biblical references to "the lot" are to the usage of this system in deciding inheritance portions within the land of Israel. The "lot" of Solomon's tribe, Judah, was a cause of contention with Ephraim (Is. 11:13), especially regarding the vexed issue of into whose lot Jerusalem fell. Solomon may be urging for all contention to cease over this, and to just accept the position of Judah and Jerusalem, because he says that Yahweh had worked through the disposing of the lots (Prov. 16:33; 18:18).  

LXX "A silent man quells strifes, and determines between great powers".

Pro 18:19 A brother offended is more difficult to be won than a fortified city; and disputes are like the bars of a castle-
To win a fortified city is presented as a human impossibility; but David is described as taking the fortified cities of Zion and then later Rabbah. Always there is the hint of justification and glorification of "my father David", a phrase Solomon uses a few hundred times. LXX "A brother helped by a brother is as a strong and high city; and is as strong as a well-founded palace". The implication is that Solomon's half brothers, who had been against him and whose families were contenders for his throne, lacked wisdom; otherwise they would have helped their brother Solomon to the throne.

Pro 18:20 A man’s stomach is filled with the fruit of his mouth. With the harvest of his lips he is satisfied-
This emphasis upon the critical importance of the tongue (:21) is reflected in James 3. But there is still an element of self congratulation here, as if the wise always say wise words and are smugly satisfied with themselves because of it. Whereas James 3:3-5 warns that we seem unable to fully control the tongue, it refuses to be tamed, and in some words we say we offend all. This is spiritual reality, rather than the simplistic differentiation Solomon makes between the sinful fools, and the wise who always speak wise words.

Pro 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue; those who love it will eat its fruit-
This is true insofar as by our words we will be justified, and by our words condemned (Mt. 12:37). Perhaps the Lord had this verse in mind when saying this. But again, it is only part of the picture. James 3:3-5 warns that we seem unable to fully control the tongue, it refuses to be tamed, and in some words we say we offend all. And so consideration of the matter of the tongue drives us to throw ourselves upon God's grace for salvation; whereas Solomon seems to imply that the wise have steel self control in their souls which empowers them to always say the right thing (see on :20). But this is simply not the case in spiritual reality. 

Pro 18:22 Whoever finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains grace of Yahweh-
One wonders whether Solomon justified his many wives by reasoning that they were all gifts to him by Yahweh's grace [gift]. He claims that possessing understanding leads to finding good (Prov. 19:8 s.w.). He assumes therefore that the mere possession of wisdom meant that the wives he found must be "good"; but his subsequent experience with them shows how wrong he was. LXX "He that puts away a good wife, puts away a good thing, and he that keeps an adulteress is foolish and ungodly". This reading would then be a justification of how Solomon's father David had put away his wife Michal, Saul's daughter, who had then married Phaltiel, a relationship Solomon liked to see as adultery (2 Sam. 3:15). Constantly Solomon uses his knowledge of Divine truths to justify himself and his father, just as God's truth can likewise be abused today.

Pro 18:23 The poor plead for mercy, but the rich answer harshly-
This is not simply an otherwise rather pointless description of how life often is. It must be understood within the context of Solomon's theme that the poor are poor because of their unwisdom, and riches are the reward for wisdom. And so, within that overly simplistic worldview, Solomon seems to justify the rich treating the poor harshly. He himself treated his people as fools, whipping them (1 Kings 12:11). And so often his Proverbs draw simplistic caricatures of the folly and laziness of the poor.

Pro 18:24 A man of many companions may be ruined, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother
AV "A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly". GNB "Some friendships do not last, but some friends are more loyal than brothers". This may again be a justification of David his father, who had many friends in the course of his career, some of whom betrayed him, but he had a hard core of exceptionally loyal supporters all the way through the various revolts against him, and who gave their support to Solomon's kingship. And they were better friends to Solomon than his own brothers, who vied with him for the throne.