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Pro 25:1
These also are proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied out-
This begins the fourth section of the anthology of wisdom sayings which Solomon put together in this book of Proverbs. It seems that just as Solomon used these Divine truths to justify himself, and it led to his spiritual undoing, so Hezekiah may have likewise used these Proverbs with an agenda of self justification. This doesn't make them untrue or not Divinely inspired; but Divine truth is being used at times with the subtext of self justification, just as it can be today.

Pro 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal a thing, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter-
This is not to be read as meaning that God plays hard to get, hiding Himself, leaving the Bible as a riddle to be solved, with relationship with God offered to those who crack it. God is in search of man, and is desperate to connect with us. The idea may be that it is His glory which conceals Him, but we can as it were see through that glory if we know Him. The reference to the glory of kings being to search out God would sound like Solomon implying he has the glory of having found God. And yet if so, he is totally missing the point that man cannot by searching find out God (Job 11:7); rather it is by grace that God reveals Himself to men. And God is in search of man, far more than we are searching for Him. We only love because He first loved us; and it is more a question of God knowing us than our knowing Him.

LXX "The glory of God conceals a matter: but the glory of a king honours business". This could be read as a justification of Hezekiah's wrongful handling of the business of the Babylonian ambassadors; see on :1,25.


Pro 25:3 As the heavens for height, and the earth for depth, so the hearts of kings are unsearchable-
This appears to be Solomon implying that he as king was beyond analysis or criticism by others, because his heart was unsearchable. But David his father used the same word in saying that God is unsearchable (s.w. Ps. 145:3; Job 9:10; 11:7). But Solomon lacked this sense of wonder because he had no personal relationship with God, and so he comes to use terms only appropriate to God in his own self defence and aggrandizement.


Pro 25:4 Take away the dross from the silver, and material comes out for the refiner-
"Dross" is used by David to refer to the house of Saul (see on Ps. 119:119). It would seem that Solomon has this in view. But "take away" is LXX "beat out", and the Proverbs have much to say about beating. Solomon ended up beating his own people (1 Kings 12:11, and he justifies this by quasi spiritual reasoning, forcing his Proverbs to justify his poor behaviour.


Pro 25:5 remove the wicked from the king’s presence, and his throne will be established in righteousness-
This was justifying the way he killed Shimei at the establishment of his kingdom. The promises to David involved the establishment of Solomon’s throne. But God had declared clearly enough that this depended upon Solomon’s personal spirituality. But he willfully failed to see this, deciding that: “Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness” (Prov. 25:5 AV). He externalized righteousness, believing in a form of guilt-by-association, which the righteous would avoid. He redefined righteousness not as anything personal, but a separation from sinners. And there is no lack of evidence that the Christian community has in places and at times fallen into some similar form of legalism. His concept of righteousness was not God’s. He forgot all about personal holiness, and instead focused upon not being guilty by association with sinners. And he thought this would justify him as righteous. The same error has been made so many times since. For how often has it happened that brethren who have had the most to say about separation from “the wicked” reveal personal lives which are anything but righteous. Solomon's attitude to being king was similar.


Pro 25:6 Don’t exalt yourself in the presence of the king, or claim a place among great men-
Solomon thought that his possession of theoretical wisdom placed him in a God-like position above his people (see on :3), and therefore they dare not even begin to question him or examine him; and none should therefore dare to ‘put himself forth’ in the King’s presence (Prov. 25:6 AV). Truly, “knowledge puffs up”. And our very possession of ‘the truth’ of Christ and the word of God carries with it the same potential temptations, leading us to consider the world so far beneath us, that we can do what we wish with no accountability to anyone. And so brethren with amazing Biblical knowledge end up in court for pedophilia, etc. etc.


Pro 25:7 for it is better that it be said to you, Come up here, than that you should be put lower in the presence of the prince, whom your eyes have seen-
These words are worked by the Lord Jesus into His parable of the final judgment (LK. 14:9). But Solomon's original idea is that he is the undisputed prince, to whom there should be no opposition. Any who rise up closer to the throne would do so by Solomon's express invitation; and any who tried to rise up without that would be shamed. The Lord Jesus reapplied all this to Himself and His Kingdom and judgment. Solomon wrongly imagine his kingdom to be God's Kingdom, and himself the Messianic ruler. And so the Lord's parable alludes to Solomon's words and corrects them.


Pro 25:8 Don’t be hasty in bringing charges to court. What will you do in the end when your neighbour shames you?-
"Bringing charges to court" is AV "strive" and that may simply be the meaning; it is the same word for "debate" in :9. But it is all the same true that recourse to the judiciary is not the ideal thing for believers, as Paul also says. Rather should there be discussion between individuals and seeking for resolution (:9). But the motive for Solomon's advice is so that you don't get shame if you are judged to be in the wrong (:10). This desperate avoidance of shame at all costs is a major theme in Solomon's Proverbs, and reflects his overall focus upon the external rather than the internal. He does indeed talk about the heart, but on balance I would conclude that he is more concerned about appearances before men than before God. And this led to his own spiritual downfall.


Pro 25:9 Debate your case with your neighbour, and don’t betray the confidence of another-
See on :8. The advice in :8 is not to "debate" at all (s.w. 'bring charges to court'). The endless need to 'take the matter up' with others really reflects much about our own insecurity. The 'debating' in view appears to involve betraying the confidence of another. If we hear gossip about another, we are to seek to disregard it, rather than go to our neighbour and raise / debate the matter. We are not to gossip, nor are we to distribute gossip; he that utters or distributes a slander is a fool (Prov. 10:18). This is an Old Testament foretaste of the spirit of love expounded in 1 Cor. 13 in the New Testament.  


Pro 25:10 lest one who hears it put you to shame, and your bad reputation never depart-
This desperate avoidance of shame at all costs is a major theme in Solomon's Proverbs, and reflects his overall focus upon the external rather than the internal. He does indeed talk about the heart, but on balance I would conclude that he is more concerned about appearances before men than before God. And this led to his own spiritual downfall.


Pro 25:11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver-
Appropriate speech to others is compared here to the spreading and action upon gossip condemned in :9,10. The idea seems to be that good words will be preserved as an ornament (:12), beautifully framed. This may be true, but Solomon as ever has the subtext inserted of his own self justification; for it is his words of wisdom which he knew were to be preserved, and he was compiling the book of Proverbs as a permanent record of his words, as an ornament. Settings is LXX "in a necklace of sardius", connecting with the idea of body jewelry in :12. But Solomon was blown away by the jewelry of his illicit Gentile girlfriend; he looked on the external, rather than on the internal. "The necklace you are wearing has stolen my heart" (Song 4:9 GNB).


Pro 25:12 As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover to an obedient ear-
This again may be Solomon's justification of his father David, who was obedient to the reproofs of Nathan, regarding Bathsheba and the temple building project. But again the hint is of external show; the obedient ear is outwardly adorned with a gold earring. Wisdom is portrayed as profitable because of the good public image it creates for the wise.


Pro 25:13 As the cold of snow in the time of harvest-
This is hyperbole, because it contradicts Prov. 26:1, where snow in harvest is a curse. What Solomon says is always true in a sense. But he seeks to exaggerate wisdom and folly to such an extent that he ends up with a simplistic dichotomy between good people and bad people which is unrealistic to the point of being false. Because wise people suffer and fail; and fools are sometimes wise. Human behaviour and its outcomes are not so simply divisible. The wise don't enjoy wonderful lives, nor do fools have miserable lives. The final outcomes are not in this life, as Solomon wrongly implies, but at the last day and in the eternity of God's future Kingdom- which perspective Solomon simply fails to adopt.

So is a faithful messenger to those who send him; for he refreshes the soul of his masters-
This positive comment about faithful ambassadors must be read in the context of the fact that Prov. 25:13 was one of the Proverbs rewritten in Hezekiah's time. He sinned with regard to the ambassadors of Babylon (2 Chron. 32:31), but perhaps he was led into this by willfully misreading this Proverb, or at least getting it rewritten with the subtext of justifying what he did. See on :2,25. 


Pro 25:14 As clouds and wind without rain, so is he who boasts of gifts deceptively-
LXX "As winds and clouds and rains are most evident objects, so is he that boasts of a false gift". I suggested on :1 that these words were rewritten at the time of Hezekiah. The boasting of gifts deceptively would then refer to the false claims of Rabshakeh to give Judah a land of blessing, or to offer them horses upon which to fight him.


Pro 25:15 By patience a ruler is persuaded; a soft tongue breaks the bone-
The Hebrew for "persuaded" is nearly always translated "deceived". The connection of a soft tongue is with Prov. 15:1, where a soft answer turns away wrath. This would have relevance to the soft answers of Isaiah and Hezekiah to the princes of Assyria, which resulted in the turning away of the angry Assyrian army. So whilst this verse is [as ever] true as it stands, there is the subtext added which glorifies Hezekiah' response to the Assyrian crisis; see on :1.


Pro 25:16 Have you found honey? Eat as much as is sufficient for you, lest you eat too much and vomit it-
Solomon warns about only eating a limited amount of the honey you may find. Yet Ecclesiastes 1 and 2 show how Solomon found honey as it were, he had the opportunity to do and experience what he wanted- and he ate so much he became spiritually sick. The allusion may be to Job 20:15, where the man who has gained riches wrongfully vomits them up (s.w.). The same word is used of eating too much honey, and vomiting it up (Prov. 25:16). All this is true, but Prov. 23:8 says that eating the tasty food of the wicked ruler will also lead to vomiting it up. Again Solomon may be cementing his own power, suggesting that any other wealthy ruler is somehow fake, and to sit at his table, in acceptance of him, would be like eating too much honey, partaking in riches wrongfully acquired. Perhaps he has Jeroboam in view. 

Solomon may also have in mind how Jonathan ate only a little honey (1 Sam. 14:29,43), whereas Saul foolishly forbad his men to eat any honey. Again we get the impression that Solomon is inserting a subtext of criticism of the house of Saul, and justification of his father's friend Jonathan.


Pro 25:17 Let your foot be seldom in your neighbour’s house, lest he be weary of you and hate you-
This must be connected with :18; the warning is against being such a busybody in your neighbour's life that you end up falsely testifying about him to others.


Pro 25:18 A man who gives false testimony against his neighbour is like a club, a sword, or a sharp arrow-
Solomon has much to say about true and false witnesses (Prov. 6:19; 12:17; 14:5,25; 19:5,9,28; 21:28; 24:28; 25:18). Whilst his warnings are true enough, he surely has an element of self justification in what he writes. Because he was aware that his parents, David and Bathsheba, had been accused of many things which had led to all the opposition against David at the end of his reign, and which opposition Solomon had to contend with in order to retain the throne for himself. David laments the false witness of the house of Saul and his own sons, Solomon's half brothers (Ps. 27:12; 35:11). The continual condemnation of false witnesses must be understood in this context. Whilst it is all true so far as it goes, Solomon is harnessing Divine truth to his own agenda of self justification. And we who claim to hold His truths must take warning.


Pro 25:19 Confidence in someone unfaithful in time of trouble is like a bad tooth or a lame foot-
There are many references to the "day of trouble" in David's Psalms. Solomon appears to be boasting of his father's deliverance from various 'days of trouble'. But the phrase is used of the Assyrian invasion (s.w. Is. 37:3). And this and some of the Proverbs were rewritten at the time by Hezekiah (Prov. 25:1). "Confidence" is the word for "trust" associated with Hezekiah's trust in Yahweh, and perhaps the relevance to his times is that trust in Egypt for deliverance from the Assyrians didn't work out.

"Transgressors" or "unfaithful" 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 25:20 As one who takes away a garment in cold weather, or vinegar on soda, so is one who sings songs to a heavy heart-
The taking away of a garment may be a comment upon the man who demands back the pledge of a garment overnight (Dt. 24:13). We marvel at how the God who is so apparently far removed from this world actually knows and feels for the desperately poor, and imagines their situations. And wishes to legislate on their behalf. And He is no less sensitive today. LXX "As vinegar is bad for a sore, so trouble befalling the body afflicts the heart".


Pro 25:21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat. If he is thirsty, give him water to drink-
This was a radical paradigm break with the general philosophy that enemies were to be hated. Solomon however elsewhere urges strict judgment upon others for their failures; and he showed no grace in his own life. So we see the warning of knowing all about grace, but acting as if untouched by it. Which is a challenging warning to we who profess to live under grace. See on :22.


Pro 25:22 for you will heap coals of fire on his head, and Yahweh will reward you-
"Hot coals" is the word used to figuratively describe condemnation (Ps. 120:4; 140:10; Prov. 6:28; 25:22; 26:21). But God hates having to condemn the wicked, he takes no pleasure in this, but rather wishes their salvation. So although what Solomon says is true enough, and apparently quoted with approval in the New Testament (Rom. 12:20), we wonder whether he really had any kind of a heart for grace and the salvation of others. For he seems to reason as if we should be kind to our enemy so that he might later be condemned- rather than in the hope that our grace might lead him to repentance.

The fire of condemnation at the judgment has already been kindled by men's attitudes now (Lk. 12:49), and hence by doing good to such men when they abuse us we (now) "heap coals of fire upon his head". "Your enemy" here must therefore refer to someone who is responsible to the last judgment. 2 Thess.3:15 implies 'an enemy' was first century vocabulary for a shunned and rejected false teacher. See on Jude 23. By showing grace to your enemy within the people of God / the church who refuses to repent, you are actually making his final punishment worse.

But I don't understand this as meaning that our motivation for such kindness should be the gleeful thought that we will thereby earn for them greater and more painful condemnation at the last day. Such motives would surely be foreign to all we have seen and known in the Father and Son. Rather am I attracted to the suggestion that there is a reference here to the practice, originating in Egypt, of putting a pan of hot coals over the head of a person who has openly repented. In which case, we would be being taught to show grace to our enemies, in order that we might bring them to repentance. This would chime in with the teaching elsewhere in Romans that God's goodness leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4). And this is how we should be, especially with our brethren. The idea of excluding our brethren seems to me the very opposite of the spirit of grace which we have received.

Paul quotes the words of Prov. 25:21,22 in Rom. 12:20. But he omits to apply the last part of Prov. 25:22 to us: "And the Lord shall reward you". Paul's point is that we should not resist evil, leave God to glorify His Name- and enable this to happen, without seeking for a personal reward for our righteousness. It's as if Paul is saying: 'The condemnation of the wicked, when God, not you, pours out His vengeance, will glorify Him. So do your part to bring this about, don't worry about the reward you're promised so much as the bringing about of His glory'.

 


Pro 25:23 The north wind brings forth rain: so a backbiting tongue brings an angry face-
GNB "Gossip brings anger". 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.


Pro 25:24 It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, than to share a house with a contentious woman-
A man on a housetop recalls the story of David's sin with Solomon's mother, Bathsheba. I detected on Prov. 18:22 Solomon's justification of David's divorce with Michal. And here too there is a subtext, however unconscious even. Solomon appears to have totally whitewashed his parents, and any consequence of David's sins are blamed by Solomon upon his half brothers and foolish men, as if they were totally guilty and David totally innocent; for this was his worldview. See on Prov. 21:8,19. 


Pro 25:25 Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country-
This is one of the Proverbs reapplied to Hezekiah (see on Prov. 25:1). The good news or gospel from a far country could refer to the news from Ethiopia which made the Assyrians withdraw from Jerusalem. But "a far country" in the Old Testament often refers to Babylon, and is the phrase used about the ambassadors from there who were Hezekiah's undoing (Is. 39:3). This could be read as a justification of Hezekiah's wrongful handling of the business of the Babylonian ambassadors; see on :1,2,13.    


Pro 25:26 Like a muddied spring, and a polluted well, so is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked-
David in his earlier Psalms exalts and boasts to God that his feet have not slipped, indeed he was overly confident that his feet would never slip / "be moved" (Ps. 17:5; 21:7; 55:22; 62:2,6; 125:1). His more mature reflection is that he had wrongly said "I shall never slip [AV "be moved"]" (Ps. 30:6), and his feet had indeed slipped, not least over the Bathsheba incident (Ps. 38:16; 94:18). Solomon didn't learn this lesson, for he likewise assumed that the righteous would never be moved / slip (Prov. 10:30), although he appears to accept that even a righteous man like his father had indeed slipped (Prov. 25:26). And Solomon himself did so, not learning the lesson from his father's mistaken assumption that the righteous can never slip.


Pro 25:27 It is not good to eat much honey; nor is it honourable to seek one’s own honour-
See on :16. Solomon was so sure of his own rightness that he just couldn't conceive that in reality he might sin or break the principles he preached. He describes in Ecclesiastes how he indulged every possible desire, and took each of his lusts to its ultimate term. Yet he warned his son to only eat honey in moderation, i.e. don't gorge your natural desires. This sense of the impossibility of spiritual failure is stamped all over Solomon; and it has been the downfall of so many others too.

LXX "It is not good to eat much honey; but it is right to honour venerable sayings". This would suggest that the honey refers to teachings, and Solomon is basically implying that his sayings should be honoured, and any others rejected.


Pro 25:28 Like a city that is broken down and without walls is a man whose spirit is without restraint
-
LXX "So is a man who does anything without counsel". Again as noted on :1, this may be a justification of Hezekiah, who dealt with the Assyrian crisis by saying he trusted in God's counsel to overcome the Assyrians (2 Kings 18:20). Like Solomon, Hezekiah's Proverbs are all Divinely inspired and true, but he seems to insert into them a subtext of self justification.